Older workers have low unemployment, but hold low-paying jobs
- Workers age 55 and older have a low unemployment rate of 3.2%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. But they also tend to be in low-paying jobs that don't have retirement savings plans. The Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) reports that among college-educated older workers, 14% are in low-paying jobs.
- Older women are are more likely than men to hold low-paying jobs, which SCEPA says is due in part to the unequal division of household work. The organization says that 38% of women age 55 to 64 earn less than $15 an hour, compared to 28% of men; older men and women spend about 48 hours a week working, but men spend longer hours in paid work (30.1 hours) versus 21.8 hours for women. And women have a retirement savings account balance of $99,000, compared with $125,000 for men.
- SCEPA also found that long-term unemployment among older workers was nearly 70% in 2012; median weekly earnings for older workers is about $875 a week; and the share of older workers without or ineligible for a pension was more than 60% in 2016.
News that many older workers are in low-paying jobs is sobering, especially for older women. These jobs rarely offer retirement savings plans, and older workers are reportedly retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day. At the same time, many are postponing retirement because they haven't saved enough to live on.
Employers can help by tailoring their financial education efforts to older workers' needs, while still remembering that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against workers over 40 because of their age.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has named age discrimination as one of its enforcement focuses for the coming years because, despite 2017 being the law's 50th anniversary, employers are apparently still struggling with compliance.
Former Facebook and PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) employees sued their companies for age discrimination this year. Even if an employer isn't specifically firing or refusing to hire older workers because of their age, businesses can also take steps to ensure that they aren't unintentionally screening out older workers. EEOC has said it will be watching where employers advertise jobs and what kind of language they use in job listings.