Workers 55 years old and older have traditionally faced difficulties in the job market. Many find themselves in danger of being replaced by younger employees who will do the same job for significantly less pay. What’s more, by virtue of their youth and good health, younger workers may be less expensive to insure. Although age discrimination is technically illegal in the United States, most workers 55 or older have experienced it firsthand or know someone who has. Fortunately, economists predict that a mature workforce will be needed more than ever before by the year 2018.
Why a mature workforce will be in great demand
Most people are acutely aware of the havoc the Great Recession wrought. The housing and stock markets took beatings, as did retirement portfolios. Although the Great Recession technically ended in 2009, the recovery has been a little bit slower than previous ones. For this reason, the increase in labor demand that usually follows recession recovery–a pattern consistent across all recessions–has been delayed. The increase is only now beginning to be noticeable. It will not peak until sometime around the year 2020. Economists predict that by 2018 there will be more jobs open than there are workers to fill them.
This is particularly true in the social sector. As of 2010, social sector jobs comprised 32 percent of all job types available. In contrast, by 2018 this number will have grown to nearly one out of every two jobs. Social sector jobs are anticipated to make up 47 percent of all jobs. This opens a world of opportunities to employees in the mature workforce category.
Many people, for financial reasons, choose a job in a field about which they are not overly passionate. They plug along until they are ready for retirement. Some launch an encore career into something they care about more. With the increase in jobs, particularly in the social sector, employees who are nearing or in retirement but who are not yet quite ready to call it a career may be able to change to something they are more interested in. Usually, it is a challenge to switch jobs once a person passes a certain point in life. However, with the looming shortage of employees, employers may be more open to mature people who have switched careers.
Benefits of working longer
There are a number of benefits to continuing to work past the age when one might otherwise retire. The benefit to employees is obvious. By delaying retirement, employees can preserve their nest eggs and make them last longer. Outliving one’s retirement savings is a genuine concern for many. Working longer is a great way to conserve and augment resources, even if only on a part-time basis. Some older employees would be willing to work in a field that does not pay as well if it brings satisfaction and security. Plus, being in a position where an employer assists with health insurance is a significant benefit.
The benefits to employers will be that they will not have to fight as hard to fill their positions. By utilizing the talent pool of employees over the age of 55, employers will obtain skilled labor. Further, many employees at this stage of their careers have developed desirable work habits and ethics. Employers may very well find that an employee in this age range will bring better results than a young person just beginning a career.
What employees nearing the age of 55 can do
For employees nearing the age of 55, now is the best time to prepare to transition to a new career. To this end, it is wise to maximize retirement contributions to lessen the financial impact of switching.
Further, employees should begin considering other fields that interest them. They should consider taking steps toward preparing for entry into such a field. Enrolling in classes or otherwise developing the needed knowledge and skills are good preparatory steps.
Age discrimination remains a persistent problem. Nevertheless, the good news is that the aftermath of the Great Recession has created new and exciting opportunities for the mature workforce.
Bilinska, P., Wegge, J., Kliegel, M. (2016). Caring for the Elderly but Not for One’s Own Old Employees?
Organizational Age Climate, Age Stereotypes, and Turnover Intentions in Young and Old Nurses. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 15: 95-105.
Bluestone, B., Kitty, M. (2010). After the Recovery: Help Needed. The Coming Labor Shortage and How People in Encore Careers Can Help Solve It. Civic Ventures. Available at http://encore.org/wp-content/uploads/files/research/JobsBluestonePaper3-5-10.pdf. Last accessed October 8, 2016.
Makienko, M., Panamareva, A. (2016). The influence of stereotypes about old age on the perception of elderly employees’ labor activity. SHS Web of Conferences, 28, 01068. Available at http://search.proquest.com/openview/9b049b8e0db2e3956b9ecc3b11c4017b/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2040545. Last accessed October 8, 2016.