Job seekers over the age of 50 should consider taking jobs as takeaway delivery riders, the work and pensions secretary has suggested.
During a visit to Deliveroo’s London headquarters, Mel Stride encouraged over-50s to expand their horizons and consider flexible jobs typically taken by younger people.
Speaking to the Times, Mr Stride said they would benefit from considering ‘options they might not have otherwise have thought of’.
He added: ‘What we’re seeing here is the ability to log on and off any time you like, no requirement to have to do a certain number of hours over a certain period of time, which is driving huge opportunities.’
His comments appear to be part of a push to reduce the number of economically inactive people – defined as people who are neither working or looking for work, which has increased since the pandemic.
But he was soon blasted as ‘out of touch’ from critics in Westminster.
Labour peer Charlie Falconer tweeted: ‘Norman Tebbit said get on your bike in response to mass unemployment and rioting in 1981. Mel Stride uses it now in the face of stagnation and inflation.
‘Traditional Tory response in face of Tory induced economic failure.’
Green Party peer Natalie Bennet shared a similar view: ‘Does Mel Stride realise just how unremunerative his advice is likely to be?’
This is likely in reference to the working conditions facing Deliveroo riders, with some reportedly paid as little as £2.90 per delivery.
Last May, the company’s riders rallied outside Deliveroo’s annual general meeting in London to protest.
Joe Durbidge, 31, who has worked for Deliveroo for four and a half years, said at the time: ‘Conditions are deteriorating constantly, my fees have never gone up since I started.
‘It’s very physical, it’s very mental, because you’re just constantly trying to work, everyone’s pushing themselves 1,000 miles an hour.
‘We’re working in all weathers, exposed to the elements. People are proud of the work they do, we just want to be paid properly for it.’
The Office for National Statistics estimates there are about 8.6 million economically inactive people in the UK, of which 3.4 million are individuals over 50 but under the retirement age.
Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies also found nearly half of older people who left work during the pandemic were facing financial struggles.
Mr Stride urged employers to create an inclusive work environment that would suit older employees as well as younger ones.
He said: ‘I think most people find it deeply unattractive to go and work for an employer that’s all about politics and all of that kind of stuff.
‘It has to be a sensible balance, and I think older people have generally had enough life experience to roll with those kinds of things anyway.’
Deliveroo has recorded a 62% increase in riders aged over 50 since 2021, with the company insisting its work is ideal for older people stepping back into the workforce because of its flexibility.
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