Fifty may be the new thirty but not when it comes to employment. The phrase is coined to reflect a renewed energy, active lifestyle, health and fitness. However to employers it would seem the phrase has little value and reflects an increasing population of “new unemployables”. Many people over fifty believe they are well-experienced qualified talent who are too young to retire and yet may be too old to be re-hired into a struggling economy. According to a study conducted by the Urban Institute, although older workers were less likely to lose a job during the recession, those who did were less likely to become re-employed unlike their younger counterparts ages 25 to 34. Additionally, workers ages 51-61 that were reemployed experienced earnings that were 21 percent lower than earnings from their pre-layoff jobs.
Many believe that age discrimination plays a pivotal role in the lack of rehiring older workers. In 2012, nearly 23,000 age discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Unfortunately unless an employer actually states a job candidate is “too old” it is very difficult to prove age discrimination.
A 2010 study by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College found many older job seekers are reduced to working part-time jobs; are discouraged and have completely dropped out of the labor force because they do not believe they will find new jobs; are experiencing extreme financial duress, loss of healthcare; and are depleting savings and retirement funds in an effort to stay afloat. In addition to using savings and retirement funds, many older unemployed workers are using coping strategies that include selling off their possessions, using Food Stamps, and visiting soup kitchens and free food panties. Another factor older workers must deal with is the increasing damage to their self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. Sixty-four percent of older workers expressed their sense of uncertainty of ever finding gainful employment again and whether or not they would ever be able to afford to retire.
Some experts postulate older workers inability to find work to being less efficient in networking and using job search tools such as social media and public workforce system programs. However, research has identified a key varying difference between older and younger job seekers. Younger job seekers are using previous employers and social media networks as job hunting resources opposed to older job seekers who mostly rely on newspaper ads and company job boards. There is also the belief that older workers are less “tech savvy” and more expensive in terms of wages and benefits than their younger counterparts.
As for employers who believe hiring older workers is not in the best interest of the organization, the “new unemployables” over 50 possess some valuable assets not commonly found in younger workers. Older workers usually have stronger work ethics, require less training, and are less likely to call off, have better communication skills and have a much lower turnover rate than younger workers.
For the over 50 job seeker, there are options. There are many online job boards for people over 50 and professional social media sites such as LinkedIn that offers its members access to job listings. Other options for older workers include to applying all those years of experience to starting their own business such as a consulting service, taking some classes to brush up on computer skills, teaching in areas of expertise, or compiling that invaluable knowledge into a book. The important thing to remember is that everyone has value at any age. Consider these famous late bloomers. Julia Child launched her popular cooking show at age 50; Author Elizabeth Jolley was 53 when her first book was published; Ricardo Montalban wasn’t financially able to build his dream house until age 68; and of course everyone members the infamous Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken (Harlan Sanders) who built his fast food restaurant chain at age 66.