Forget the Great Recession. The vacillation of Generation Z workers, seeking fulfillment and doing their jobs like a game of musical chairs, will correct itself over time. They have their whole lives ahead of them to find something worthy.
The biggest challenge is what to do with all workers over the age of 50 who are looking for gainful employment. This is one of the hardest times to be a late-career employee. Half of Americans work part-time throughout their 50s. Last year, more than a quarter of workers between the ages of 55 and 59 were out of a job, meaning they had no jobs to take a break from.
COVID-19 exacerbated this, as millions of older American workers were disproportionately out of work.
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Around the world, the traditional, stable jobs that led to pensions have become remnants of the pre-pandemic. In the United States, an increasing number of workers cannot afford to retire, not least because of inflation and uncertain retirement benefits. Now, a worker must wait until age 70 to collect most Social Security benefits, and Congress is expected to discuss raising the eligibility age for Social Security next year.
It makes sense for people to work longer hours to increase their retirement accounts. But many who need to work for a long time fail to do so because they are fired long before they reach retirement age and cannot find another one. So he rests well.
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Many factors pose challenges to older workers
The lack of steady work with living wages and benefits — once the driving force behind upward mobility — has increased inequality. Global challenges such as COVID-19, business changes and emerging technologies have led to the rise of low-wage, temporary jobs.
If workers have demanding jobs such as retail or hospitality, illness may force them to quit their jobs. Many workers in their 50s are also responsible for caring for older generations, which temporary gigs don’t allow. And of course there is aging.
A Brookings Institution report found a strong relationship between having a steady job in the 50s and working in the 60s and beyond. Therefore measures to support the elderly need to be started earlier, even in the 40s. This can be done by promoting low-wage jobs – combined with minimum wages, flexible working hours and paid holidays – to reduce turnover. This will help people to work longer.
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Likewise for companies, this is an opportunity to avoid loss of productivity over time by maintaining a stable workforce. Companies that rely on hourly workers have higher turnover rates. They also have limited access to employee training and technology.
Helping older workers with critical skills can help them find work and meet business needs.
Such actions are necessary to preserve Social Security, which is expected to be cut by 20% by 2034 unless Congress and the President intervene. Without action, monthly benefits can be reduced by hundreds of dollars on average, and anyone age 55 or younger will not receive any benefits at all.
And yet, unemployment figures leave 50 workers forced into early retirement. This is because they are not in the prime working age, and have not reached the age associated with retirement, according to Beth Truesdale, a sociologist and author of the Brookings paper. The employee policy and the retirement plan should be considered as one option but they are not, and these employees fall into the gap.
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Population change threatens the global economy
It’s a gap that only gets bigger and bigger over time.
Which is worrying, because the aging population, not the growing population, is the ticking time bomb.
The world’s population has just reached 8 billion, with life expectancy rising and fertility rates falling. All over the world, people aged 75 and over are the fastest growing part of the workforce. Today, 40 million Americans are 65 or older, a number that is expected to double in the next 40 years.
Failure to plan for the inevitable demographic change will result in a shrinking workforce that will struggle to support the growing number of “retirees”.
To be sure, improving the working conditions of low-wage jobs or training programs alone will not solve the myriad problems faced by older workers. Age discrimination continues.
For example, IBM has forced more than 20,000 employees who are over 40 years old in the last five years, and they are facing lawsuits because of this.
Unfortunately, among the more than 40 million Americans age 50 and older who work, according to a 2018 analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute, half of them may be out of a job or forced to retire regardless of income, education or location. .
Without strong legal protections for older workers and changes in business practices to identify more jobs as a competitive advantage needed to increase productivity, older workers will face fewer opportunities, leading to increased poverty in old age.
The lack of 50 workers should be a priority in future labor negotiations. Even if all of Gen Z’s behavior problems are resolved tomorrow, the biggest workforce crisis is still looming.
Katrin Park is a freelance writer and former director of communications with the International Food Policy Research Institute.