Over 50-year-olds have a higher chance of becoming permanently jobless compared with younger people and face "significant barriers" finding more work, according to a new report.
Business in the Community said a million workers over the age of 50 were "pushed out of work" for reasons beyond their control.
Research for the business-led charity suggested that of people aged between 50 and 64 who experienced a change in their economic status, just under a third found work.
A larger number of people aged 50-64 became permanently jobless, either through inactivity or unemployment, than were able to return to work, said the report.
Over-50s demonstrated a substantial desire to work, similar to younger people, but faced significant barriers such as age discrimination, it was reported.
Older people who make it back to work also appear to do so through their own efforts, using personal resources and networks, rather than official support, said the study.
Rachael Saunders, of Business in the Community, said: "This latest research clearly shows that if you're over 50 and out of work, you are a lot less likely to get back into employment, especially compared to your younger peers. This is a sorry state of affairs. Not only are hard-working and highly skilled over-50s workers unfairly punished but we as a country also lose out.
"Urgent action is needed if we are going to reverse this situation and we will continue to work with Government, business and local communities to keep people over 50 in work, and improve the prospects of marginalised and under-used over-50s workers."