Monday, 04 February 2013
Older Workers and the Recession
It is conventional wisdom on the right side of the political spectrum that older workers are not affected much by this endless recession we've been living through for nearly five years.
They cite the lower unemployment rate for people nearing retirement age and imply that this is somehow unfair to young workers; that old folks should pack it in so younger ones can have their jobs.
There is much more to the issue than the unemployment figures and although I've written about this a couple of times, it's hard for a blogger, an old one at that, to make an impact. So it is a good thing when a big-time newspaper takes notice.
Reporter Catherine Rampell writing in The New York Times:
“...once out of a job, older workers have a much harder time finding another one. Over the last year, the average duration of unemployment for older people was 53 weeks, compared with 19 weeks for teenagers, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report released on Friday...
“When older workers do find re-employment, the compensation is usually not up to the level of their previous jobs, according to data from the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
“In a survey by the center of older workers who were laid off during the recession, just one in six had found another job, and half of that group had accepted pay cuts. Fourteen percent of the re-employed said the pay in their new job was less than half what they earned in their previous job.”
Let me repeat that: “[Of] older workers who were laid off during the recession, just one in six had found another job.”
Some older workers have been out of work for five years caught between a rock and a hard place: no one will hire them and they are not yet old enough for Social Security or Medicare.
Or, to have enough money to live and eat, they signed up for early Social Security sentencing themselves for the rest of their lives to only two-thirds of the benefit they would have received had they been allowed to work until full retirement age.
Taking Social Security at age 62 means not only drastically reduced income but no affordable health coverage for three more years. Reporter Rampell again:
”New research suggests that they may die sooner, because their health, income security and mental well-being were battered by recession at a crucial time in their lives.
“A recent study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security lost up to three years from their life expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.”
What isn't addressed in the Times story is how many elders who lost their jobs also lost their homes to foreclosure or are stuck with underwater mortgages. And even those already retired who had diligently saved all their working lives to have something more than Social Security in old age had their savings wiped out in the crash and have been stuck with near zero interest rates on whatever they have left.
Let us have no more conversation pitting generations against one another in the poverty sweepstakes. Everyone is hurting. Well, except for the people who caused it all.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Richard J. Klade: A True Role Model