Forget the Great Resignation. The restlessness of Generation Z employees, seeking satisfaction and treating their work like a game of musical chairs, will settle down over time. They wait their whole lives to find the right one.
The bigger crisis is what to do with all the 50-year-old workers looking for work. This is one of the worst times to be an evening employee. Only half of Americans work regularly through their 50s. Last year, more than a quarter of workers aged 55 to 59 were out of work, meaning they don’t have a job to retire on.
COVID-19 has exacerbated this trend, as millions of older American workers have lost their jobs.
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Around the world, full-time, long-term work that culminated in retirement has become a relic of the pre-pandemic past. In the United States, a growing number of workers are unable to retire, but not keeping up with inflation and uncertain retirement savings. Now, a worker must wait until age 70 to collect the maximum Social Security benefits, and Congress is expected to discuss raising the Social Security age to next year.
It makes sense that people should be able to work longer to build up their retirement accounts. But many who need to work longer can’t because they lose their jobs before they reach retirement age and can’t find another. So they retired.
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Many factors create challenges for older workers
The disappearance of stable jobs with living wages and benefits – while driving upward mobility – has added to inequality. Global crises like COVID-19, changing business models and emerging technologies have led to the rise of low-quality and temporary work.
If the worker has a physically demanding job such as retail or hospitality, poor health may force them to leave their position. Many workers in their 50s are responsible for caring for older generations, who cannot afford temporary gigs. And of course there is age.
A Brookings Institution report found a strong correlation between holding down a steady job in your 50s and working into your 60s and beyond. Therefore, initiatives to support older workers must begin earlier, even in their 40s. This can be done by improving the quality of low-wage jobs – including lower wages, more flexible work schedules and holidays – to reduce turnover. It will help people work longer.
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Likewise for businesses, this is an opportunity to avoid long-term productivity losses by retaining a consistent workforce. Companies that rely on a disproportionate number of hourly workers tend to have higher turnover rates. They are also less likely to invest in employee training and technology.
Helping older workers develop needed skills can help them get re-employed and meet business needs.
Such efforts are critical to maintaining Social Security benefits, which are expected to be cut by more than 20% by 2034 unless Congress and the president act. Without action, monthly benefits will drop by hundreds of dollars on average, and anyone age 55 or younger will never receive full benefits.
However, unemployment statistics tend to leave out 50 workers who are forced to retire early. This happens because they are not part of the workforce in the first years, and have not yet reached the period of time associated with retirement, said Beth Truesdale, a sociologist and author of the Brookings journal. Labor policy and pension policy should be considered the same system, but it is not, and these workers fall into the gap.
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Demographic change threatens the global economy
It will take longer and become more and more difficult to complete as time goes on.
Which is scary, given that the aging population, not growth, is the ticking bomb.
The world’s population has just reached 8 billion, life expectancy has increased and fertility rates have declined. Around the world, people aged 75 and over are the fastest growing group in the workforce. Today, 40 million Americans are 65 and older, a number expected to double over the next 40 years.
Failure to prepare for this inevitable demographic change will result in a shrinking workforce that will struggle to support the growing number of “retirees”.
Certainly, improving the working conditions of low-wage jobs or training programs alone will not solve many of the challenges faced by older workers. Age discrimination continues.
IBM, for example, has laid off more than 20,000 workers over 40 in the past five years, and has faced lawsuits as a result.
Unfortunately, among the more than 40 million Americans age 50 and older in the workforce, according to a 2018 study by ProPublica and the Urban Institute, half of them are at risk of being fired or forced to retire. milk regardless of income, education level or geography. .
Without stronger legal protections for older workers and a change in business models that value their work experience as a competitive advantage needed for greater productivity, the older workers will face less time, resulting in a poverty rate in old age.
The disappearance of the 50-year-old workforce should be more prominent in the debate about the future of work. Even if all the quirks of Gen Z’s work habits were solved tomorrow, there’s still a huge demographic crisis.
Katrin Park is a freelance writer and former communications director with the International Food Policy Research Institute.