It’s happening again. One of the perverse hallmarks of the Great Recession ten years ago was the expulsion of many older workers from the workforce. A significant amount of experienced employees found themselves forced into sudden unemployment or premature retirement. Many never fully recovered financially or emotionally and their careers were left scarred and lacking in dignified closure. The current Covid-induced recession is again presenting similar employment hardship for mature workers. Since March the labor market has shed many senior-aged men and women, who possess both high and low skill levels. In other words, this elder layoff is widespread.
Unfortunately, this is not turning out to be simply a temporary furlough for these workers, but rather a longer-termed separation marked by an acceleration of egregious trends. Again, as during the last recession, newly trending labor shifts are weakening older workers’ employment security. Previous examples included labor-saving technologies and increased work loads for younger and less expensive staff, which combined to lessen the management need to restore previous personnel levels. Once again, mature employees find their bargaining power diminished when facing dismissal and rehiring. Weak or non-existent unions, the rise of the gig economy, and continued lenient enforcement of age-discrimination laws, not to mention the harmful economic disruption from Covid, leave senior workers feeling increasingly insecure and inadequate.