Entering the workforce as an older adult can be daunting. It may seem that employers are not willing to hire older adults. And you may be dissuaded from applying to jobs because finding a job appears impossible. In reality, it can be more difficult to find a job as you age due to hiring discrimination.
It becomes hard to find a job at around age 50, though it becomes most difficult to find a job when you are 64 and older. These difficulties stem from many factors, including ageism, time away from the workforce, and how close the employee is to retirement.
Not all employers discriminate based on age when hiring. And there are a few factors that impact their hiring decisions when age discrimination is involved. To learn more about these factors and age discrimination in hiring, read on.
Research About Age Discrimination
Extensive research has been completed about age discrimination during employers’ hiring decisions. This research has discovered that it is much harder for workers to get a job beginning around age 64, although it becomes slightly more difficult at age 50. Generally, the hiring rates for adults begin to decrease around age 50. And they continue to decline slightly until age 64 when the greatest drop occurs.
These discrepancies could occur for a few reasons. Employers may believe that factors such as age or time away from the workforce hinder a worker’s abilities. Moreover, they may think that older workers may not stay at the company long before retirement, devaluing the employer’s investment. Despite the cause, it is unfair for employers to make their employment decisions on the basis of age.
In one study, researchers crafted fake resumes and sent them to ads for job categories that employ workers over a large age range. On these resumes, the researchers aged the fictional workers as either 29-31, 49-51, or 64-66. The middle-aged (49-51 years old) group experienced slightly lower callback rates than the young (29-31 years old) group. But the older (aged 64-66) group experienced much lower callback rates.
For example, in the group of female resumes that were sent to sales jobs, there was a 36% drop in hiring between the older and young groups. About 28.7% of the young group’s resumes received callbacks, while only 18.4% of the older resumes received them. This provides compelling evidence that it is much harder for 64-66-year-olds to find a job than younger adults.
It is important to note that the middle-aged group had slightly more difficulty receiving callbacks than the young group, indicating that age discrimination begins around the age of 50. However, by the age of 64, it is considerably more difficult to get a job.
This study also discovered gender-based differences in age discrimination. Specifically, the study found that women are more likely to be discriminated against based on age than men.
In fact, the evidence that men are discriminated against based on age is relatively small for certain jobs. Although there were age differences in callback rates for the young and older resumes of men, the pattern was often inconsistent and sometimes was not statistically significant, meaning it could be due to random variation rather than actual bias.
Even in the gaps that were statistically significant, the difference in the effect of age on job callback rates was smaller for men than women. For example, while women experienced a 36% drop in hiring between the old and young groups, men experienced only a 30% drop.
According to PBS News, getting a job after the age of 50 has gotten statistically more difficult for women since 2008. There are a few reasons that women may experience more age discrimination than men during the hiring process.
Primarily, the work of older women trying to enter or re-enter the workforce is devalued due to employers’ perception of work experience. Employers, especially male employers, may assume that the woman applicant has been out of the workforce to care for her family, and often devalues this experience. They may believe their experience outside the workforce or raising children left them unprepared to enter the workforce again.
Unfortunately, these misconceptions are harmful to women trying to enter the workforce at and beyond age 50. Discrepancies in discrimination rates between older men and women may also be due to greater biases against women who appear older. Unfortunately, this can make it even more difficult for older women to get jobs.
What Employers Say
In TransAmerica Center’s 2018 survey of employers, employers were asked what age they would consider a prospective employee “too old” to hire. Among the 24% of employers that cited an exact age, the median was 64. This means that 24% of employers surveyed thought employees of age 64 and above were too old to hire.
The good news is that in the same study, 64% of employers said the hireability depended on the worker. This means that although some employers create barriers to people older than 64 in the job search process, the majority are open to hiring older workers depending on their abilities.
During this study, employers were also asked what age they thought a person was “too old” to work at all. Again, about 65% of employers said it depended on the person. But of those who cited an age, 70 was the median. On average, this means it could be very difficult to find a job when you are 70 and above.
This is why it is crucial for older adults to prepare their CVs accordingly. Read our other article to find out how to do this: CV Advice for Over 50s: 10 Actionable Tips.
What You Can Do
According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, “the setting of arbitrary age limits regardless of potential for job performance has become a common practice,” showing that even the government has acknowledged that current employment practices make it difficult for older adults to get a job.
To counteract age-based discriminatory practices both in hiring and in the workplace, this act was created. It prohibits employers from refusing or failing to hire an individual because of his or her age. Furthermore, it prohibits them from discriminating against applicants for opposing any discriminatory practices the employer commits.
Basically, this law is targeted toward people ages 40 and above. And it requires employers to hire based on ability without making assumptions about age. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission can cooperate with employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations to implement these laws.
Victims of age discrimination can be eligible to receive compensation if the employer is found to have intentionally violated the law and made their hiring decisions based on a person’s age. Therefore, if you believe employers are refusing to hire you based on age, making it difficult for you to get a job, you can contact a lawyer and mention this law.
In conclusion, it can be difficult to find a job as an older adult due to workplace discrimination. This difficulty begins at around age 50, but it becomes truly hard to become a job at about age 64. At age 64, some employers may think you are too old to hire. And studies have shown employers are less likely to hire people after age 64.
Fortunately, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on age. Your age does not affect your abilities to be a great asset to a company. And if an employer does not hire you when you truly deserve a job solely because you are the oldest candidate, it is within your rights to take legal action against them.
- PBS News Hour: Why women over 50 can’t find jobs
- TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies: Striking Similarities and Disconcerting Disconnects: Employers, Workers, and Retirement Security
- FBRSF Economic Letter: Age Discrimination and Hiring of Older Workers
- U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Discrimination: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967