They dropped back slightly to 1.5 million in 2002″ (Mason-Dreffen 2003). Those increases occurred despite the fact that age discrimination can be difficult to prove, although the Supreme Court had eased the plaintiff’s burden of proof (Ormsbee 2002). Song 2001
University of California at Davis professor of computer science, Dr. Norman Matloff, noted that in the IT world, “old” can begin at age 35. In addition, “The market has become more difficult for older workers since Congress passed a bill in 1998 that doubled the number of foreign high-tech workers from 65,000 to 115,000 that could be brought into the country under ‘H1-B’ work visas” (Matloff, quoted by Song 2001). Since Matloff was interviewed, the cap has been raised to 195,000 (Song 2001).
Despite this, in 2000, 843,000 IT jobs went unfilled, with about 20% of those being the programming positions Matloff said were at the heart of the problem of assumed technical ignorance in the older workers, who have not been “groomed in the programming acronyms of the moment — Java, C++ or XML — yet employers require actual ‘paid’ work experience in these technologies” (Quoted by Song 2001).
Lommel reports that California social psychologist Stephen Richardson was instrumental in developing the idea that adolescence ends today at 35, not 19 or after college at 22, or at 25 after a few experiences of ‘real life’ (Lommel 2001).
If that is true, and certainly the youth culture suggests that it might be, then it is difficult to explain why employers think it ends a mere 20 years later. Lommel noted:
In a sharp reversal of a long downward trend, the number of age-discrimination complaints has jumped dramatically in the past 18 months, the Chicago Tribune reported recently. The newspaper said the sudden change reflects corporate America’s determination to cut costs by weeding out many of its highest-paid workers. Last year, 16,000 people filed age-discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, up 2,000 from the year before. It was also the highest number since 1995. And the surge continued into the first part of this year. Complaints for the first six months of fiscal 2001 are up 15% from the same period last year (2001).
History of the problem
In the 1980s, Rones & Herz noted that Federal efforts were toward extending worklives, and that employers had followed that lead by their attitudes isn labor negotioans and by offering generous and early pensions; at the same time, howver, employers ahd also induced current workers to retire earlier than planned to make room for new people in the workforce (1989). It would appear from this that the government and the employers were well aware of a significant fact: fewer people were coming into the workforce, while the huge Baby Boom generation was still in it. Without ever spelling it out, it would seem there was a ‘market correction’ to make room at the conference table for the younger workers.
In fact, in the 1980s, the last of the Baby Boom (1946-1964) was still entering the workforce, or at least, was at the start of their careers. So the attractions being offered were, arguably, as much to lure and keep them as for the older workers. Purcell noted that “The age profile of the working-age population, however, already is undergoing a substantial shift toward a greater number of older workers and a relative scarcity of new entrants to the labor force” (2000). According to the Bureau of the Census, the properotion of Americans age 65 and older will increase form 12.6% in 2000 to 10.3% by 2030. When Purcell wrote, the oldest Baby Boomers were 54 years old, and the youngest 36. “These 78 million individuals today make up approximately 55% of the U.S. population aged 25 to 54. Their sheer numbers suggest that the impact on labor markets could be substantial if this generation chooses to retire earlier (or to remain in the workforce longer) than did previous generations” (Purcell 2000).
Following are additional data about the age groups under discussion:
In 2003, there were 21.2 million workers age 55 and older, which was 15.4% of total employment.
Women between the ages of 55 and 64 have steadily increased their labor force participation rates from 42.0% in 1985 to 49.2% in 1995 and to 56.6% in 2003.
Persons age 55 and over accounted for 15.1% of the total labor force in 2003. The General Accounting Office (GAO) projects that this age group will account for 19.2% of the labor force in 2015.
In 2000, the average retirement age for men was 62 compared to 65 thirty years ago. The average age for women in 2000 was just under 63 compared to 65 in 1965.
According to the GAO, between 2000 and 2008, the percentage of teachers older than 55 will increase from 13% to 19%.
According to the same GAO study, people 55 and older in nursing and health-related fields will increase from 12 to 18 between 2000 and 2008″ (U.S. Department of Labor Web site 2005).
As part of their discussion, Rones & Herz discussed older workers taking part-time jobs at lower pay as part of the demographic shift, and noted that those were scarce because it cost almost as much to train a part-timer as a full-timer.
Rones & Herz discussed the discrepancy between the income and worklife experiences of younger and older workers, and noted that “When any group’s labor market experiences are found to be inferior to another’s, the issue of discrimination is a subject for discussion” and that, despite limited research conducted at that time, it would appar that discrimination does take place in the job market — that hiring, training, and promotion decisions involving older persons are not entirely age, sex, and race neutral” (1989). They also reported some of the data that did exist, including the findings that mature men in a sample investigated between 1966 and 1976, as they gained tenure and experience, had “a substantial decline (in real terms) in earnings” that occurred while earning increased for all workers. They concluded that “The poor earnings performance among older workers was determined to be unrelated to any decrease that might have been associated with job changing” (Rone & Herz 1989).
Rones & Herz proposed three reasons for this. The first was that older workers provided lower productivity, possibly related to skill obsolescence and/or employer reluctance to invest in training or re-training older workers. The second was worker’s preference for increased leisure instead of increased work hours. Rones & Herz preferred a third conclusion, however: That employers “assume that older workers will accept lower levels of salary increases, or fewer of them, because older persons’ ability to find comparable alternative employment is quite low.” Certainly, that substantiates the recent and even the older consumer press reports on the subject.
On the other hand, another study “found little evidence of discrimination. In fact, they determined that about 90% of any loss in earnings in workers’ new jobs reflected a loss of their firm-specific human capital” which cannot be tied (necessarily) to discrimination (Rones & Herz 1989).
Over the next few years, the decline in labor force participation for those 55 and older had leveled off, according to Besi & Kale: The rates declined from 38.2% of older men to 22.7% of older women. (1996). Reasons offered for the decline in workforce participation by older workers have been attributed to several factors. The American econmy has altered in favor of white collar and service occupations, and awa from blue-collar jobs. Besi & Kale note that for the new economy, age probably has less impact on productivity than before; additionally women are moving into the older age group at the same time demonstrating higher participation rates than earlier cohorts of women (1996).
The work of Besi & Kale does not suggest that there is a bona fide need to eliminate older workers from the labor market; less phyisically demanding tasks, as the authors point out, argue that it would be prudent to retain workers who were already skilled at their professions.
Possibly taking into account the small size of the generation entering the workforce, Guthrie & Schwoerer proposed that there was a “growing need to encourage and invest in continuous learning and development for all employees; they also argued that there was “recognition of the fact that a fuller understanding of valid, age-related differences rather than reliance on inaccurate stereotypes could enhance management practices as applied to employees in later career stages” (1996). They also noted, however, the concurrent opposite trend in the workforce, that of “hurrying the departure” (1996) of older workers while, at the same time, experience a slower inflow of new employees from the smaller generation of younger Americans.
On both counts, however, they believed that improving the skills of all employees would be crucial for all organization, given the trends toward upgraded skill requirementws accompanying technological advances in virtually all fields. However,…