While more workers are hoping to continue working longer, older workers still face barriers, a study has concluded.
The trend of working longer has been underway for years, spurred by longer life expectancies, the erosion of traditional retirement benefits and simple desire to remain engaged in work, said a study by the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.
Relatively few employers offer formal phased retirement–the federal government has such a program on the books but agencies rarely use it–and in a survey by the AARP, two-thirds of workers age 65 and up reported that they had experienced or seen age discrimination despite the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and state laws prohibiting it.
Employers commonly express concerns about physical and cognitive problems of older employees, even though “the expertise and experience of older workers often makes up for such deficits. In any case the proportion of jobs that are physically demanding has declined sharply in recent decades.”
Older workers are less likely to be injured on the job and are much less likely to exhibit “avoidable absenteeism,” it added. “Nevertheless, despite the ADEA and other efforts to raise awareness of the value of older workers, implicit and sometimes explicit bias against older workers and in favor of younger, less expensive workers remains pervasive among U.S. employers.”
On the positive side, it said, “recognition of the value of the skill and experience level of mature workers has begun to gain a foothold — particularly in occupations where labor is in short supply. Some companies are actively experimenting with phased retirement and/ or proactively hiring older workers. Others have launched mentorship programs in which older workers train new employees, and ‘skills banks’ for retirees and older workers that offer a variety of part-time employment opportunities.”