Why It Matters

Cristy Dwyer – December 2010

“Older workers who lose their jobs could pose a policy problem if they lose their ability to be self-sufficient. “That’s what we should be worrying about,” said Carl E. Van Horn, professor of public policy and director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, “what it means to this class of the new unemployables, people who have been cast adrift at a very vulnerable part of their career and their life.” 1 (Motoko Rich, NY Times, 2010.)

Unemployment among those over age 50 is at an all time high. As the baby boomers come of age and Social Security coffers dwindle, life expectancy and costs of living continue to increase while many pensions are in decline or disappearing altogether. Recently organizations like AARP have reported the complaints of ageism and discrimination in hiring practices since 2008 among those over age 50, as reported to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), have skyrocketed. This confirms what many older unemployed Americans already knew—“Since the economic collapse, there are not enough jobs being created for the population as a whole, much less for those in the twilight of their careers.” 2

In a culture that arguably worships at the alter of youth, how can our ubiquitous media resources be harnessed in conjunction with carefully crafted social policies that will, whenever possible, utilize existing public and private programs in an effort to mitigate, lessen and ultimately end the real or perceived disenfranchisement of this segment of the population?

Issues of discrimination and ageism notwithstanding, the fiscal impacts of continuing to allow the discouragement of this significant group of people from the workforce are untenable. In the midst of rapidly deflating Social Security and Medicare system, can we afford not to ensure this—or any other emerging group—can find meaningful employment if they are ready, willing and able to work?

1 Motoko Rich, “For The Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again,” The New York Times, September 19, 2010, sec. A1.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/20/business/economy/20older.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=f or%20the%20unemployed%20over%2050,%20fears%20of%20never%20working%20ag ain&st=cse

2 Rich, Over 50 Fear of Never Working Again,1.

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