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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Grandma Needs a Job

If older workers want to retire later, or are forced to do so, will they be able to find jobs?:

Older Staffers Get Uneasy Embrace, by David Wessel, WSJ: Americans are going to have to retire later, we're often told. They live longer than their ancestors. Neither their retirement savings nor the taxes of younger generations can support ever-longer retirements. ... But will employers want more older workers?

"There's a lot of happy talk around that we're going to have slowing in the rate of growth in young workers and, therefore, employers are going to want to hire older workers just at the time that older workers are going to want to work," says Boston College economist Alicia Munnell... "We think it's much less clear than that." ...

A significant minority of employers see this demographic reality, broadcast affection for "mature workers" and win plaudits from AARP, an advocacy group for older people. ...

Bookstore chain Borders Group says it finds "mature workers" appealing because half its customers are over 45 and turnover among older workers is one-sixth that of under-30 workers. About 18% of Borders' 30,000 workers are over 50, double the fraction six years ago, and the company anticipates by 2010 one in four will be.

At the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in Chicago, 40% of 1,000 mainly professional employees are 50 or older and 25% are 55 or older. ...

For all the heart-warming pictures such efforts produce, they appear to be exceptions. ...

Surveys by Boston College's Center for Retirement Research found that employers expect about a quarter of employees currently in their 50s will want to work two to four years longer than past workers. Then employers were asked if they would accommodate half those who wanted to work later. "On a scale of 1 (unlikely) to 10 (likely), the median response was a lukewarm 6," the researchers say.

While employers are "reasonably comfortable" with the older workers they currently employ, "they are not keen on retaining even half who want to stay on to age 67 or 69," the Boston researchers concluded. They predict "a messy and uncomfortable mismatch with large numbers of older workers wanting to stay on while employers prefer that they do not."

Why? Employers fear older workers "cost too much, lack current skills and don't stick around long," Ms. Munnell and co-author Steven Sass write. Wages tend to rise with seniority. Health costs for older workers are higher. Older workers are viewed, rightly or not, as less supple in dealing with new technologies. And old workers tend to be in older industries and occupations in which employment is growing slowly if at all.

The image of companies loyally retaining scarce, seasoned workers is at odds with reality. Among male workers between 58 and 62, only 44% still work for the outfit that employed them at 50, down from 70% two decades ago. And even if labor shortages emerge, they argue, many employers will hire younger immigrants, shift work overseas or deploy labor-saving technology (like the cashier-less grocery-store checkout) instead of hiring older workers. ... [Video]

    Posted by on Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 01:17 AM in Economics, Social Security, Unemployment | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (88)


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