According to the August edition of the Older Workers Report, conducted by The Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis Retirement Equity Lab, more than half of unemployed Americans over the age of 50 are at risk of involuntary retirement.
In the same analysis, it was revealed that roughly three million workers between the age of 55 and 70 have been terminated or resigned from their place of work since March.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t given any member of the workforce reasons to be hopeful, but older Americans might have the most to lose once we’re in the clear.
“The COVID-19 recession will force 3.1 million older workers and their spouses into de facto poverty when they retire,” the authors explained in the report. “The recession affects all 67 million people in near-retirement households by decreasing their financial preparedness for retirement, measured by the share of pre-retirement earnings replaced with retirement income. The longer the economy takes to recover, the more likely it is older workers will give up actively looking for work. As the recession continues, some workers may re-enter and leave the labor market. However, there is wide consensus among economists that we will not return to pre-recession levels of employment and output in the next year.”
These findings have direct implications for job gains after COVID-19.
Despite pushback from younger generations, Americans over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. Still, legislation meant to protect this demographic from workplace discrimination is pretty thin. Stereotypes associated with older citizens are particularly destructive when work is so hard to come by.
Sixty-one percent of respondents over the age of 45 polled in AARP’s Multicultural Work and Jobs Study, said that they routinely either experience or witness ageism at their office, and 38% of respondents described age-based discrimination as “very common” across all sectors.
Currently, the industries below are the least likely to take on older talent according to a meta-analysis recently published by Resume Labs.
- Software and IT
- Business and Finance
Conversely, healthcare and education were the only industries determined to be relatively open to the idea of employing older hirees. Reluctance was mostly based on productivity and output concerns.
“Truth is, though, stereotyped perceptions of different generations have always existed in every area of life. Perhaps more so than elsewhere, in the workplace. We decided to look into the most common stereotypes about older workers,” the researchers over at Resume Labs wrote. “Surprising as it might sound, studies have shown there’s no difference in key clinical metrics related to both physical and mental health between older and younger workers. The only statistically significant difference observed was in blood pressure levels—that said, the average blood pressure of an employee over the age of 55 was still within the healthy range.”
The most commonly cited concerns regarding older workers were as follows:
- Aren’t motivated
- Don’t participate in extra training or career development programs
- Are resistant to change
- Aren’t as productive as younger workers
- Don’t identify themselves with companies they work for
- Are distrustful of other people
- Have poor health
- Will let their family lives get in the way of work
- Won’t share their knowledge
- Are more expensive to hire than younger candidates
- Will leave the job sooner than their younger colleagues.
The only concerns that hold merit regard older workers being more expensive to hire and the interest expressed by older workers in development programs.
According to a 2015 report by the AARP, employees over the age of 55 are in fact somewhere between 1 and 10% more expensive than younger workers to hire.
“A study by Personnel Psychology found that older workers are less interested in “career development programs.” Participation in additional training and learning self-efficacy, as reported by supervisors, was slightly lower in workers over the age of 55,” the authors at Resume Labs added.
Neither statistics take the years of experience procured by older workers that might justify their starting salary or negate the need for additional training.
There are limitations associated with older employees but none that reasons discounting them on principle. Employees over the age of 50 tend to develop high blood pressure more often than their younger counterparts, for instance, but this disparity doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
“While it’s true that high blood pressure can cause serious cardiovascular disease, the onset of such is likely to occur in people who have already retired,” Michael Tomaszewski, career expert at Resume Labs concludes. “Another interesting finding to debunk the claim: according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, workers over the age of 55 take less time off sick compared to younger workers.”