Career and Jobs

Nearly 30 Million Baby Boomers Forced Into Unwanted Retirement

In the third quarter of 2020, roughly 28.6 million Baby Boomers have left the job market and retired, according to the Pew Research Center.   

The study shows that Covid-19 has contributed to the rapid increase of Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964—being forced out of the labor market. Since the onset of the outbreak, the number of Boomer-aged retirees has increased by about 1.1 million.  

Over 65 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since March 2020. The unemployment rate hit double-digit record highs. Some companies, such as Amazon, Facebook, Zoom, Netflix and Google, have fared well and thrived during the pandemic, while the large majority of businesses have faced adversity and challenges. Corporations, particularly in the airlines, leisure, entertainment, resorts, hotels and travel industries, have enacted hiring freezes, massive layoffs and cost-cutting measures.

One of the methods used to axe expenditures is to eviscerate middle-management positions. These roles are primarily held by professionals who are primarily in the 40-years-old and higher range. The positions are either done away with or juniorized, in which mid-to-senior-level workers are replaced with younger employees with considerably less experience. 

If you’ve been on the job hunt, this may account for why you see so many jobs calling for applicants with only three to five years of experience. The job advertisements rarely require candidates with 30-plus years of relevant knowledge. It’s common to read job descriptions obviously written to dissuade older workers through the usage of thinly veiled verbiage, such as “under 10 years of experience”, “requiring cutting-edge technology knowledge” and lower-level corporate titles. 

A trend that started pre-Covid-19 was to relocate positions to lower-cost states and places  outside of the United States. The shuffling of jobs has picked up steam, as businesses recognize they can pay people much less outside of major urban cities, such as New York and 

San Francisco. Additionally, now that working from home has become standard practice, companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, say that they will hire talent from anywhere. It’s likely that they’ll look for the best people who live in inexpensive places, so that they could compensate them less.  

The combination of cost-cutting, relocating positions, juniorizing roles and downgrading job descriptions, coupled with unspoken ageism, creates a crisis for older workers. 

Labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci said, “Older workers are losing their jobs at a faster rate, relative to younger people.” She added, “A total of four million people potentially pushed into retirement before they are ready.” Ghilarducci direly warned, “Half of Americans aged 55 and up will retire in poverty or near poverty.”

According to research from the University of Chicago, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on older people—particularly those who are 50 years of age and older. The research concludes, “Early retirement [is] a major force in accounting for the decline in the labor-force participation. With the high sensitivity of seniors to the Covid-19 virus, this may reflect, in part, a decision to either leave employment earlier than planned due to higher risks of working or a choice to not look for new employment and retire after losing their work in the crisis.”

A big challenge for older people is that the vast majority of Americans lack the money needed to sustain them in retirement, especially as life expectancy has increased. The Federal Reserve Bank says that around 44% of Americans self-report that their retirement savings are not on track and 25% don’t have pensions or retirement savings. 

The lack of corporate pensions, insufficient savings to retire, questions surrounding the viability of Social Security being around and a continued bias against people of a certain age points toward a frightening future.

The one thing humans all have in common is the fact that we grow older. More attention needs to be paid to this matter. If the confluence of events that conspire to push out seasoned experienced people from the workforce continues to be ignored, this may ultimately happen to you one day.

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