Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Employers are growing more accepting of older workers, in part because they “look a lot like younger workers” in key characteristics that employers are seeking, says the Center for Retirement Research.

The report was the latest in a series on the job prospects of older workers, many of whom take post-retirement jobs, at least on a part-time basis, for financial and other reasons. “Although relatively little is known directly about employer demand for older workers, relevant information is available on a number of fronts, including the changing characteristics of older versus younger workers, their productivity, their costs, and their ability to get interviews and jobs,” it said.

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In examining census data, the report found that compared with workers age 30-35, those age 55-60 are only 2 percentage points less likely to use a computer at home or work and only five percentage points less likely to be in good health. One notable difference, though, was that the younger group was nine percentage points more likely to have a college degree.

“Over time, 55-year-old men and women have gained many years of healthy life expectancy, which means employers no longer need to view them as workers on the verge of retirement.

On the cognition front, while older workers may not lead in mastering new material quickly, they have accumulated substantial knowledge and have devised efficient ways to do their work,” it said.

It further cited studies finding that “most older workers, contrary to negative stereotypes, are engaged and productive” and that a work unit’s productivity “is enhanced by using mixed-age teams” because of the experience that older workers bring. Older workers further “are less likely than younger workers to leave abruptly,” creating disruption to a work unit and new costs to hire and train a replacement.

Another study conducted in 2019 found that 96 percent of employers view older professional workers as equally or more productive than younger ones, up from 90 percent in a similar study in 2006; for support workers, that view rose to 94 percent from 72 percent.

On the down side, older workers tend to file more health insurance claims—on average, about $5,600 per person per year for the older group vs. $2,800 in the younger group.

It added, “One clear encouraging sign for the labor force prospects of older workers is the survey evidence that older decision-makers are more likely to rate them as equally or more attractive than younger workers. An aging workforce should produce more older managers and, therefore, a more receptive environment for older workers.”

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