Ageist attitudes in the UK are deterring hundreds of thousands of older people from finding jobs while creating serious barriers to the country’s economy, according to a new report.

The ‘Generations Forgotten’ report, published by The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME), aims to bring about a step change in people’s attitudes towards older workers by alerting them to the ways in which they can contribute towards the recovery of the UK economy.

The report follows a survey commissioned in December last year by Bank of America – the charity’s strategic corporate partner – which found that 53 per cent of people aged over 50 felt they were at a disadvantage compared to younger workers in the job market.

Eighty-one per cent of those surveyed further revealed they believed the attitudes held by employers towards their age played a big role in creating that disadvantage.

Generations Forgotten is hoping to encourage the 2.4 million economically inactive people aged over 50 to return to business by diminishing the employment barriers which stand in their way.

The report claims that if just one per cent of that group manages to transfer to self-employment, the country would experience a valuable boost in its economy, creating new jobs and saving welfare payments.

In the report PRIME chief executive Laurie South said: “The over 50s clearly perceive that ageist attitudes are rife in the labour market.

“This is equally as unacceptable as gender or race discrimination.”

Societal attitudes also stand in the way of older people looking to self-employment as an alternative source of income, as businesses fail to provide them with the necessary resources, the report said.

The research found that 44 per cent of people believe that older generations would, in fact, be less successful as entrepreneurs than those 25 years younger.

Almost half of the people surveyed confessed they were held back because they felt there were a lot more negatives to starting a business as an older entrepreneur than there were positives.

PRIME is aiming to reverse the tables by putting the estimated 800,000 unemployed over-50s back in business.

Mr South said the new report was aimed as a “wake-up call” to remind people of the importance to the UK’s economic competitiveness of having a constant flow of new businesses. Success in this sector will only be secured if society becomes more open to the talents and experience older workers can provide.

He added: “We need to see a fundamental shift in attitudes towards older people – they display an interest in self-employment on a huge scale but feel they are being held back by negative perceptions and ageist attitudes.”

The survey said that 35 per cent of those aged 50-64 have considered starting their own business in the past but have later dropped their ambitions due to the number of obstacles and the lack of support.

Yet ageist attitudes are in stark contrast to the many successes demonstrated by older entrepreneurs in business.

With at least three times as many entrepreneurs in their 50s than in their 20s, and with their companies having 56 per cent more chance of surviving the first five years of business than those started by workers between the ages of 25-49, the charity said it was clear steps must be taken to change employer’s attitudes in regards to age.

Amy Clarke, head of international corporate social responsibility at Bank of America, said: “The research from PRIME and Bank of America shows the huge level of interest in business enterprise for the over 50s and the very real successes achieved by this age group when barriers to employment are overcome.”

PRIME – which was initially founded by Prince Charles to help Britons over the age of 50 find a way back into work – provides business support through training, networking, and mentors.

It also plays a role in campaigning for the better treatment of older workers.

Ms Clarke added: “In what many people are starting to call a ‘Phoenix Economy’, PRIME offers those older entrepreneurs a tangible opportunity to follow their dreams whilst at the same time, contributing towards the recovery of our economy.”