Older workers, particularly women, are losing out when it comes to paychecks. Not only are they getting stuck in low-wage jobs, but women — who make up a minority of older workers — account for the great majority of older workers in several low-wage fields.
According to a report by economist and retirement expert Teresa Ghilarducci of the Retirement Equity Lab at the New School, unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent for workers aged 55 and older in October.
What the BLS report didn’t say, according to Ghilarducci, is that older workers are increasingly being relegated to low-wage service jobs — jobs that pay less than two-thirds the median wage, or $539 per week. In September, 27.1 percent of full-time workers aged 55 and older were in low-wage jobs, compared to 19.0 percent of younger workers.
Labor force participation among those older workers, at full-time jobs, is 70 percent for men and 59 percent for women. However, women make up more than 75 percent of older workers in four of the top 10 jobs, and are also the majority of workers in seven of the top 10 low-wage jobs for older workers, primarily service occupations.
In addition, the share of older workers in low-wage jobs has increased over time, while the share for younger workers has stayed the same. The September share of older workers in low-wage jobs (27.1 percent) is 1.4 percentage points higher than the share 10 years ago (25.7 percent).
Fifty-three percent of those older workers do not have a pension. BLS figures in the October report are focused on what actually appears to be a rather optimistic unemployment rate of 3.7 percent (the U-3 rate, made up of people without work seeking employment), when compared with the U-6 and U-7 rates.
For its part, ReLab looked at the U-6 rate of 8.6 percent (U-6 is made up of “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers,” according to the BLS) and the U-7 rate of 10.9 percent (U-6 plus “discouraged” workers), and suddenly the picture looks quite different.
Back in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an August unemployment rate of 3.5 percent for older workers, seeming to indicate that older workers can just work longer if they don’t have sufficient retirement income. But the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research said that “an increasing share of older workers are in ‘bad jobs’” that pay less than two-thirds of the median wage, which stood at $880 per week in August. In July of 2016, the report said, 29.1 percent of older workers held such “bad jobs,” compared with 27.0 percent in July 2006.
Those “bad jobs” make it tough for an older worker to save anything additional toward retirement, even assuming that they have access to a retirement plan. And Hollywood could be making it harder, according to a report in the Huffington Post. Pointing to the “disturbing” findings in new research on the subject, the report said that not only are the statistics demeaning, they are contrary to how seniors see themselves. But maybe, one has to wonder, not contrary to how many employers see them — and that could be making it harder for seniors to get, or retain, jobs that will help them make enough money to see them through retirement.
Studies from Humana and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism indicate that ageism in film is depicting prominent senior characters with demeaning or ageist references. And that’s when they show seniors at all—seniors are substantially underrepresented in film portrayals. That could be contributing to employers’ attitudes on older employees—how capable they are, how intelligent, even how healthy.