Analysts, commentators and bloggers (including myself) have long been writing about the discriminatory actions of American businesses against workers as young as 50-plus. Companies have found numerous ways, such as reorganizations, downsizing, layoffs and the like, to evade federal laws against age discrimination. As a result, Boomer workers are often the first to be let go, even if they've had an excellent work record and have shown loyalty to their employer.
A startling report from AARP, based on research and analysis conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, points to the economic impact of age discrimination in the workplace. First, here are some basic facts from the report about the 50-plus workforce:
- 117.4 million people in the U.S. are age 50-plus
- Because of the COVID 19 pandemic and other economic factors, many now plan to work well past the age of 65; in fact, over 40 percent of workers age 65-plus intend to continue working into their 70s
- In 2018, the 50-plus population supported 88.6 million jobs and $5.7 trillion in wages and salaries; this demographic segment, just 35 percent of the total population, contributed 40 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Get ready for the real shocker. According to this study:
"The economy missed out on an additional $850 billion to U.S. GDP in 2018 -- a figure the size of Pennsylvania's economy -- because of age discrimination. This gap could rise to $3.9 trillion in 2050."
The report goes on to state:
"Reducing involuntary retirement, underemployment, and unemployment duration among the 50-plus population could have driven an average increase of 4.1% in GDP in 2018. In 2050, an uplift of 6.3% could be generated."
AARP's "The Longevity Economy" (registered trademark) outlook "measures the 50-plus population's overall contribution to GDP, employment, wages and salaries, and taxes through 2050, and analyzes its unique effect within different industries. The economic contribution of people age 50-plus was worth $8.3 trillion in 2018, and it is forecast to more than triple to $26.8 trillion by 2050."
Digging into the report's data reveals some sobering observations:
- People age 50 to 64 experience longer unemployment than other groups
- Women age 50-plus spend an average of 31.4 weeks unemployed -- longer than men
- Lower income workers are more likely to feel trapped in their present role as a result of age discrimination
- Minorities feel less able to re-enter the workforce because of age discrimination
- Involuntary retirement costs the economy the most.
Many of us may view age discrimination as patently unfair, treating it as a moral or ethical issue. That is certainly one way to look at it. But AARP has elevated the discussion of age discrimination to a new level, demonstrating its impact on the American economy as a whole. It's time for all Americans -- in particular business executives and political leaders -- to wake up to the real cost of age discrimination.
You can obtain the full AARP report (PDF) at the link below: