In my previous post, I wrote about the fact that a growing percentage of Boomers seemed to be retiring from the workforce while, at the same time, there was a significant increase in Boomers working for themselves. I drew the conclusion that many Boomers may be looking at work differently, redefining what we think of as work. Some of them may be opting out of a traditional full-time job working for someone else in favor of full- or part-time self-employment.
Lurking behind this conclusion, however, is a stark reality that many Boomers may be pursuing non-traditional work because they have no choice. The fact is there is a problem of perception in the workplace, both in the United States and elsewhere. It centers around another topic I've addressed frequently: Ageism.
In "Older Workers to the Rescue? Why Boomers May be the Answer to the Big Quit," an article recently published by Newsweek, Bradley Schurman confirms my belief about Boomer gig work by citing statistics from the Pew Research Center: "...20 percent of gig workers in the U.S.—from freelance consultants to Uber drivers—are over the age of 50, and nearly a third of those are over the age of 65."
Schurman notes that in the post-World War II American workplace of 1950, "nearly one out of two men over the age of 65 were in the formal labor market." He asks whether employers will take advantage of the huge over-65 labor pool available to them today, but he writes, "Nothing will change, though, unless employers abandon hiring and firing practices that favor the young." He goes on to say, "Hiring managers, in particular, must remove coded language like 'recent college graduate,' as well as the requisite number of years of experience from job postings. They also need to get out of the rut of assuming that an older worker is 'overqualified,' technologically illiterate or only going to stick around for a few years."
On the positive side, Schurman suggests that a major demographic shift could affect how employers view older workers: "The labor force participation rate for people over the age of 75 is expected to grow by nearly 100 percent by 2030, according to the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics]. In contrast, the total workforce will only expand by about 5 percent, and the 16-24 age group will likely decline, thanks to decades of contracting birth rates."
Perhaps this shift will, as Schurman surmises, finally force employers to recognize the value of hiring Boomer employees instead of viewing them as obsolete workers. With millions of jobs to fill, it's only a matter of time before employers realize millions of qualified Boomers are ready, able and willing to work. Until then, however, there will continue to be a big disconnect between the age-discrimination hiring practices of most employers and the availability of capable, experienced job-seeking Boomers.