In this episode of Work in Progress, my guest Ramsey Alwin, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging, and I discuss how to make sure older workers aren’t left behind in the post-pandemic economic recovery.

The soaring unemployment over the past year has hit many workers hard, especially older workers, who often face discrimination, even in boom times. “It’s really taken a toll. Low-wage jobs (held by older adults were) the first to experience the closures, the furloughs,” says Alwin. Many of those workers were people of color and women, given the disproportionate occupational segregation into some of those low-wage jobs and service industry jobs.

1.1 million older workers age 55 and older have left the workforce during this past year. “Many have given up on continuing to search for work given the challenges they’ve experienced—not only the ageism in the workforce, the lack of job opportunities—but being scared for their own health and well-being in going back to work,” she explains.

Older Workers are At Risk of Being Left Out of the Economic Recovery

Alwin and I discuss why older adults are at risk of being left behind when hire kicks up again.

“The challenge with this pandemic is that we’re still in limbo with the vaccine rollout as to how and when people will feel safe in coming back. And we’re very, very aware of state-sanctioned age discrimination, and very carefully watching employers’ activities as well,” she tells me.

“Because there is a concern about older adults and their susceptibility to the virus, it should be their choice as to when they come back. However, employers are cautious, and there may be some inadvertent discrimination that we need to watch-dog, in terms of making sure the older workers that want and need to go back to work have those opportunities, and are not prevented just because of their age.”

Investing in Upskilling and Training is Crucial

Alwin and I go into depth about what can be done to make certain older workers are not left out of the recovery.

Chief among the solutions is investing in upskilling and training so that older workers—especially during this recovery—have the skills and the tools that make them eligible when new jobs are created.

She adds that we need to make sure that “equitable recovery initiatives—whether they be infrastructure or service industry—includes some intentionality around making sure there’re mature, worker-friendly opportunities, and we aren’t discriminating, and we’re doing the right advertising and promotion for these opportunities so that it brings all ages and talents to bear.”

Alwin breaks down these ideas further in the podcast, which you can listen to here, or you can download it wherever you get your podcasts.

Read the transcript for this episode of Work in Progress here.

Episode 177: Ramsey Alwin, president & CEO, National Council on Aging
Host: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch, Melissa Panzer, and Ramona Schindelheim
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts

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