- Half of unemployed older workers are at risk of involuntary retirement due to layoffs, hiring freezes and safety concerns about returning to work, the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis The New School said in research released Aug. 5.
- Recent job losses have hit older, nonwhite women the hardest, the research showed. And even under normal economic conditions, older workers who are laid off are unlikely to re-enter the job market, researchers said.
- To mitigate these issues, the center called on policy makers to, among other things, extend and increase unemployment benefits, work to discourage early retirement account withdrawals, and expand both Medicare and Social Security access.
The risk of involuntary retirement may threaten employers' diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts not only with respect to older workers but disproportionately affected older female or nonwhite workers.
Employers have for years been working to stem the so-called brain drain from steady Baby Boomer retirement, finding that succession planning alone wasn't enough. Some made phased retirement options available, having those nearing retirement gradually reduce their hours and focus on training and coaching those in the pipeline for their role.
But current events could now accelerate that movement, according to the New School research: employers and workers are facing wide-spread involuntary separation coupled with a demographic at high-risk for COVID-19 complications. With general workforce retention already low for older workers, the picture could be substantially bleaker now.
As a result, employers prioritizing D&I efforts may face some hurdles with respect to efforts targeting older workers, especially those who are women or nonwhite.
Still, there are some initial steps employers can take to avoid dissuading older workers from returning or applying for openings. Some have suggested employers consider long-term telework options. Others have advised that talent acquisition professionals craft job postings carefully, avoiding phrases such as "digital native," while also ensuring those listings are specifically shared where older workers are likely to see them.