Age-friendly Jobs Increases, But It Is Not All Good News

There is both good news and strange news regarding age-friendly occupations in America. According to a recent study titled “The Growth of Age-Friendly Employment” by three renowned economists, the age-friendliness of around three-quarters of U.S. jobs grew between 1990 and 2020. In particular, the number of people employed in what these economists refer to as “above-average age-friendly jobs” increased by 49 million during this 30-year period.

A Strange Finding

Andrew Scott, an economics professor at London Business School, co-wrote the article with Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Nicolaj Sndergaard Mühlbach of the McKinsey consulting firm. In the article, he stated that he expected a rise in the number of age-friendly occupations, but he was astounded by how large the increase was.

Now for the strange part: you would assume that older employees – those 50 and older — would benefit most from the surge in age-friendly occupations, but this is not the case. Even though the number of persons employed in the most age-friendly occupations increased by 33,1 million between 1990 and 2020, only 15,2 million were beyond the age of 50.

Researchers revealed that age-friendly positions had been filled disproportionately by younger women and graduates of all ages.

Non-college graduates, particularly male non-graduates, are at a disadvantage, according to Scott, co-author of “The 100-Year Life” and “The New Long Life. Scott said that they prefer to work in the least age-friendly jobs.

Meaning of ‘Age-Friendly’ Employment

Identifying what each economist considers “age-friendly” in a job is helpful in addressing this question. To create their Age-Friendliness Index, they matched nine job attributes (schedule flexibility, telecommuting, physical demands, the pace of work, autonomy, paid time off, working in teams, job training, and meaningful work) with data from the O*NET program of the U.S. Department of Labor, the nation’s primary source of occupational information.

The Index determined the age-friendliness of employment based on previous research indicating that older employees choose professions with greater autonomy, moderate physical activity, flexible scheduling, shorter commutes, and the option to work from home. According to one survey, elderly workers would take a 20% salary drop in return for flexible work. You can probably see where all of this is headed.

Age-Friendly or Worker-Friendly?

Indeed, age-friendly occupations are worker-friendly ones. Researchers discovered that in 2020, HR managers, insurance salespeople, receptionists, and reservation agents would have the most age-friendly employment.

Several “age-friendly” employment features are particularly appealing to women. Debra Sabatini Hennelly, founder and CEO of the workplace consultancy business Resiliti, states scheduling flexibility is of considerable advantage to employees who are also the primary caretakers for their children or elderly parents.

How to Be Age-Compatible

Hennelly, an advocate for older workers, recently co-wrote a Harvard Business Review piece with “The Super Age” author Bradley Schurman titled “Bridging Generational Divides in Your Workplace.”

In their study, Hennelly and Schurman claimed that employers let rid of a disproportionate number of older employees during the pandemic owing to early retirements, a toxic mix of ageism and cost-cutting tactics.

One takeaway from Scott’s age-friendly jobs paper: There is a substantial distinction between age-friendly employers and age-friendly occupations.

To recruit and retain workers of all ages, employers increasingly provide age-friendly positions. To be an age-friendly company, however, one must be prepared to hire, train, and retain individuals beyond the age of 50, as well as promote a multigenerational workforce and avoid ageist policies and practices.

Scott was encouraged by the quick expansion of age-friendly vocations, but he feels much more effort is required to promote age-friendly firms.

Scott said they saw a shift in the industry toward more age-friendly corporations, but there hasn’t been much success with companies converting to age-friendly employers.

Suggestions for Elderly Job Seekers

Scott and Hennelly provided two pieces of advice to job seekers over the age of 50 in light of the increase in age-friendly employment but the lack of age-friendly employers:

Determine whether a prospective employment or sector is actually age-friendly. Determine if the company employs age discrimination in its employment and retention processes. Scott asks, “Is there a profession with less age discrimination?”

Hennelly recommends an unexpected method for discovering this information: perusing online ESG reports from employers. Formerly referred to as corporate social responsibility or sustainability reports, ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance.

The ‘S’ in ESG refers to how you treat your employees, says Hennelly. There are now ESG reports that emphasize age diversity.

Hennelly observes, however, that U.K. and European corporations are more likely than U.S. companies to include age diversity in their ESG reports. These reports are discoverable through an internet search.

In addition, consider the list of over a thousand businesses that have signed the AARP’s “age-friendly pledge” and the list of hundreds of firms in the Age-Friendly Institute’s “Certified Age-Friendly Employer Program.”

Be proactive about the benefits you would offer to the business as an older worker during a job interview. The top business argument he would offer is that you can assist in resolving the employer’s turnover issue, adds Hennelly. Indicate that if you obtain the position, you want to remain for an extended period of time.

According to a new OECD analysis titled “Retaining Talent at All Ages,” older employees are less inclined to switch professions than younger employees.

Hennelly argues that employing older workers with knowledge and experience enables younger workers to learn from them and avoid making the same mistakes that the 50+ workers have made in the past.

If the recruiting manager feels you are “overqualified” or will ask for excessive compensation, she recommends you to “head that off.” Just state, “I’m sure you’re asking why someone with my level of knowledge would be interested in this position.”

Why You May Decide to Work Less

In their Harvard Business Review essay, Hennelly and Schurman advise companies to recognize and reward younger managers who do not dismiss older candidates as ‘overqualified’ or wonder why they would seek a position that appears ‘below’ them.

Hennelly encourages you to state your willingness to work for less pay than your previous position, maybe in return for fewer managerial responsibilities.

Employers may reduce labor expenses by hiring more elderly people who are ready to take less compensation, according to Scott. In the grand scheme of things, he says, less pressure to increase employee compensation can result in lower national inflation.

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