(WHTM) — Millions of Americans lost their jobs during the pandemic, but the impact on older workers has been especially rough.
“Once an older worker loses their job, it takes them double the time to find a new job and they rarely actually make the same salary. They end up making less than they made prior to losing their job so it puts them in a really tough situation,” said Susan Weinstock, vice president of Financial Resilience Programming for AARP.
Prior to the pandemic, the workforce was made up of people age 55 and older. Weinstock says of those old workers, now unemployed, half are considered long-time unemployed, meaning they have been out of work for six months or longer.
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“Are there reasons why older Americans were affected so harshly during the pandemic? We don’t know for sure yet, there’s still lots of research to be done on that. But, we’re worried about age discrimination. AARP has been fighting against age discrimination forever, we want to make sure older workers have an equal chance at the job market as every other worker,” Weinstock said.
In fact, recently, 78% of older workers surveyed by AARP said they had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workforce. That is the highest percentage since AARP started asking the question in 2003.
“That certainly says something right there. Obviously, older workers are feeling that age discrimination much more so than they were before,” Weinstock added.
Right now, we are seeing many job openings in this country. But, that does not necessarily mean older workers will benefit. Many of them become caregivers during the pandemic, supporting their children and grandchildren.
Another obstacle? Learning new skills, especially with computers.
“if you’ve been in a retail or warehouse job and you want to go work in an office..these are skills you’re going to have to have and we’re offering them for free,” Weinstock said.
AARP offers skill-building classes, but Weinstock reminds older workers not to sell themselves short on the skills they do have.
“They always say we can train the hard skills, those soft skills the empathy, the listening, the collaboration. All extremely important to making a successful workplace. Having those skills are super important. Employers really do value that,” Weinstock said.
When it comes to age discrimination, AARP has been working with Congress to pass legislation protecting older workers. Meanwhile, for anyone who would like more information on AARP’s efforts and its free skill-building classes, click here.