By Sheila Callaham
On October 8, 2023
Why would a 20- or 30-year-old care about ageism? The answer seems obvious–simple, even–but it’s not. So what’s the answer?
If people continue to overlook age bias, stereotyping and discrimination, then every younger person risks aging into it.
Ageism affects our health and longevity by as many as 7.5 years. It harms our financial well-being. Plus, ageism takes a toll on emotional and mental health. Researcher and aging expert Becca Levy concluded the 1-year cost of ageism was $63 billion in health-related expenses.
In the workplace, olders face longer periods of unemployment when displaced from a job, and they find it increasingly difficult to move from one position to the next. They face hiring discrimination and report fewer professional development opportunities and promotions.
When older people are not allowed to work, it takes a toll on the economy. In the U.S. it is estimated that $850 billion in lost gains to the Gross Domestic Product due to involuntary retirement, underemployment, and unemployment among older workers.
Moreover, when older job seekers can’t find work, they often draw down their savings or are forced to take early retirement benefits, impacting their lifelong financial subsidies.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, older adults are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population. Workers 55 and older made up nearly 20% of those living in homeless shelters in 2021, and thousands more live in their cars or on the street.
“The fact that we are seeing elderly homelessness is something that we have not seen since the Great Depression,” Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor, told the New York Times.
Without employment opportuntities older workers are left particularly vulnerable.
Ageism Results in Loss
The economy created 119,000 more jobs in September than previously reported in July and August, according to Reuters, with payroll gains almost double the 170,000 forecast. Unemployment remains unchanged from the previous month at 3.8%.
Most recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number of job openings had increased to 9.6 million.
The bottom line is that there are plenty of job vacancies but few opportunities for older workers. Lack of employment opportunities directly impacts the financial security of people over 50.
The question is, what, if anything, will be done?
Case Study for Malaysia
An aging population is defined as one in which those aged 65 years and above make up at least 15 percent of the total population. In 2022, the share of the Malaysian population aged over 65 years was at 7.5 percent, but the country expects to reach 15 percent by 2030.
The country has slowly increased the retirement age from 55 in 2001 to 60 in 2012. Now they are looking to extend it to 65. Malaysia also offered a two-year tax incentive in 2020 and 2021 for employers who hired workers 65 and older.
In comparison, the percentage of the U.S. population of over 65 in 2022 was 17.13–well over the aging population definition. There are no tax incentives for employers to hire older workers. Moreover, older workers already drawing social security are penalized for earning more than $14,250 annually as a single filer and must pay taxes on up to 85% of their social security benefits.
Legislation meant to strengthen protections for older job applicants in the U.S. was passed by the House in 2021 but sat in a Senate committee without action.
Do 20- and 30-Year-Olds “Get” Ageism?
Any younger person who has seen an older parent struggle to find employment surely gets ageism. But not every younger person understands what’s at stake.
Sophie Schmitt, Founder and CEO at Seniosphere Conseil in Paris, asked a room full of graduate students at a prestigious French business school if they knew what ageism was. To her surprise, not a single hand went up.
Ageism is not confined to the U.S., it is a global challenge. In Europe, one out of two people are ageist, according the the United Nations and World Health Organization.
Everyone deserves the right to work and receive equitable wages, no matter what their age or where they live.
So, if you are a younger person who doesn’t understand or care about ageism, here’s one question to consider: What kind of workplace do you want to age into?
This piece was republished from Forbes.