Age Discrimination: Are Workers Over 50 Cursed in the Job Market?
The feelings older workers have about age discrimination and being condemned to joblessness isn't just in their heads. According to The Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of older workers who have been unemployed for 12 months or more is 50 percent higher this year than it was last year and marks the biggest increase across all age groups. So is there really an "Over 50s Curse" when it comes to finding work? Is there such a thing as being too old to get a new job?
The unemployment rate for workers over the age of 55 is hovering at around 7 percent, which is deceivingly low considering the plight older workers face when they lose their jobs. Older workers tend to carry rank and be in more stable positions but they also often receive higher salaries and more benefits than their younger counterparts, which makes them a prime target for companies looking to cut the bottom line during a recession. Once they've lost a job, finding a new one is all but impossible thanks to a slew of factors including very specific skill-sets and a tendency to be more selective in job choices, plus the ever-ominous and hard-to-quantify age discrimination monster.
-- See the average salaries of workers ages 44 - 65.
Age discrimination rears its ugly head in the form of employers assuming (illegally of course) that an older applicant will be harder to train, less productive, less technologically savvy, uninterested in a position with a lower salary, and/or unwilling to relocate. Oftentimes, older applicants don't even get in the door for an interview, having already been eliminated based on stereotypes alone. And because it's so difficult to prove that age discrimination was a factor, there's little that applicants can do to fight back, leaving many of them stuck between a rock and a hard place: too old to find work but too young to retire.
Nearly 170,000 workers ages 50 and over have been unemployed for 12 months or more in this country, left to search fruitlessly for jobs month after month all while burning through precious retirement savings and building up debt in its place. Many have pushed retirement back and some have kissed it goodbye completely. "I'll be working until I die," says Marguerite DiGaetano, 58, who has given up on any hopes of retirement after being unemployed for two years. "I think the person who invents the cubicle where you can discreetly hang your walker where it doesn't trip anybody, that person will be very popular with the baby boomers." And that's assuming she finds a job and has a cubicle.
Sure sounds like a curse to me.
Rigel Celeste is a freelance writer and artist living in a small city in the middle of Midwest farming country. In her free time she enjoys gardening, hiking and playing with her dog, and drinking coffee while staring out the window.