Thursday, July 24, 2008

Survey: Employers Looking for Educated Older Workers

A report issued by the Urban Institute suggests that baby boomers looking for jobs in growth fields that welcome older workers "will want to dust off their diplomas rather than their treadmills" since most of the fastest-growing occupations that already employ above-average shares of workers age 55 and older rely on an educated workforce. The report also discusses the personal and social benefits of increased work by older adults and the reasons why boomers are likely to try to work longer than earlier generations and examines whether employers will want older workers and how changes in the nature of work, demands for different occupations, the characteristics of older workers, and overall labor force growth will affect the future demand for older workers.

According to the study--"Will Employers Want Aging Boomers?"--by Gordon B.T. Mermin, Richard W. Johnson, and Eric J. Toder, employers value older workers for their maturity, experience and work ethic, but worry about out of date skills and high costs. Future jobs will require less physical demands and more cognitive and interpersonal skills, trends that favor educated older workers, but job opportunities for less educated older workers may remain limited.

The faster growing areas that require education include personal financial advisors, veterinarians, social and community service managers, surveyors, environmental scientists and geoscientists, registered nurses, and instructional coordinators. The list also includes postsecondary teachers, archivists and curators, social workers, management analysts, pharmacists, counselors, and business operation specialists. The fastest-growing area friendly to senior workers is personal and home care aides. Other categories that depend less on academic credentials include usherers, animal trainers, locksmiths, and brokerage clerks.

In their conclusion to the complete discussion paper, the authors recommend that, in order to promote employment at older ages, policymakers might consider the following steps to increase demand for older workers:
  • make Medicare the primary payer for workers with employer-provided health insurance;
  • reduce legal uncertainties surrounding formal phased retirement programs;
  • allow in-service distribution of defined benefit pensions at age 59 1/2;
  • better target government training and employment services to older workers; and
  • take steps to increase employer awareness of the value of older workers.
Source: Urban Institute Press Release (July 23, 2008)

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