Opinion: A Powerful Way To Keep Retirees Out Of Poverty Is To Address This Problem In The Workplace

A recent study by ProPublica and the Urban Institute found that up to half of the 40 million working adults over the age of 50 will, at some point, be fired from their jobs (fired outright) or forced to quit (jump before the push). And once expelled, only 10% of these displaced older workers find replacement jobs with a salary commensurate with the professional jobs they left. That older guy or girl you see packing groceries at Whole Foods is probably not there because he or she wants to be.

How bad is it? Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist and nationally recognized expert on retirement security, estimates that “about 50% of workers over 55 will be poor or near-poor adults when they turn 65”. Let that number sink in – 50%. Soon we will all meet someone who has landed here: a friend, a family member. Ourselves. And don’t think of the retirement income crisis as a pesky little boomer problem. GenXers and Millennials are on the same footing behind them. Like boomers, many will face an uncertain job future, no pension, a shortage of affordable housing, and rising health care costs, and let’s not forget more than $ 1.6 trillion in student loan debt. So maybe it‘s time for a different approach. Since 2012, Larry Fink, President and CEO of BlackRock BLK, -0.51%, the world’s largest investment management company with assets under management of nearly $ 9 trillion, has sent an annual letter to business leaders about the most pressing problems facing society and the role of business in tackling them. This year and last he spoke about the “growing retirement crisis” and workers worried about surviving their savings and asked companies to “take greater responsibility to help workers navigate retirement, lending their capacity for innovation. to solve this immense global challenge. ” I argue that a big part of helping “workers navigate retirement” is addressing age bias in the workplace. Age discrimination in the workplace, now compounded by the health risks of COVID-19, is forcing millions of older Americans to leave their jobs and involuntarily retire, an involuntary retirement marked by poverty. As the world’s most powerful investor, what BlackRock prioritizes affects executive suites and boardrooms around the world. In this era of extended healthy life expectancy, I would like to see BlackRock engage corporations directly on their plus-50 strategies and ask about their progress investing and leveraging talent across generations, especially measures to attract and retain older workers. . Last year, AARP interviewed about 6,000 employers around the world, and 83% said that an age-diverse workforce was “key to the long-term growth and success of their businesses.” But only 47% record age as a factor of diversity. Collecting and analyzing data is the first step in understanding the age demographics of the workforce and identifying underlying issues. This 47% is a place to hang a flag. These companies are among those that will set the standard and pioneer best practices on how to retain and reintegrate people age 50 and older into the workforce. Let’s acknowledge them, give them a bigger megaphone, and learn from their experience. In New York City, the Age Smart Employer Awards, an initiative of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, celebrate age-friendly businesses. These awards are a good starting point and I would like more municipalities to adopt them. They normalize the hiring of older workers and go beyond promises. Companies actually have to show how they are talking. I have read President Biden‘s plan for older Americans, and it is ambitious as it addresses many of the biggest problems facing postwar-age Americans today, including controlling prescription drug costs, strengthening Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, the preservation of Social Security and expansion. and strengthen laws against age discrimination. Much has changed since the Aging Americans Act, the centerpiece of US aging policy, was enacted in 1965 and was just reauthorized during the government‘s fiscal year 2024. For example, OAA offers employment opportunities and job training programs for low-income seniors through the Community Service for Seniors Program (SCSEP). But at current funding levels, SCSEP can only serve about 1% of eligible individuals. Furthermore, the profile of today’s SCSEP job seeker is not the same as it was more than 50 years ago, especially after the Great Recession. In the SCSEP program where I consulted in 2017, about 40% of the participants had at least some college education. But SCSEP is limited to paying minimum wage and few jobs offer opportunities for advancement. Participants shared that they were thankful to be working but struggled to make ends meet, let alone save. The aging economy is forcing many older Americans to work beyond the traditional retirement age. For SCSEP, this means expanding its services to meet the needs of a broader cross section of economically vulnerable older people seeking employment for more skilled employment opportunities that span more functions and sectors. But private sector companies will need government incentives to increase their participation in the SCSEP program: support for training and workplace modifications, wage compensation, and other subsidies. Good quality jobs could also come from the government through a separation for older job applicants in the American Jobs Act or other large federally funded employment programs. As a nation, we have achieved longevity by investing tens of billions of dollars in diagnosing, managing, and treating disease. We have a long existence, but we have not been as successful investing in the physical and social infrastructure necessary to support our health, financial independence, emotional well-being, and dignity as we age. This is the work before us now. And we are trying to catch up. Big moment. Also Read: You Are Likely Out Of Work At 50: 4 Ways To Prepare And Minimize The Pain Elizabeth White Started Her Career At The World Bank, Later Became A Retail Entrepreneur, And Now An Advocate For Older Adults Facing Uncertainty Insecurity labor and economic and author of “55, Underemployed and Fingiendo Normal.” Follow her on Twitter @ 55fakingnormal.