While the U.S. ignores the problem, the United Kingdom Monday announced a “world-leading new approach” to tackle age discrimination in employment there.
UK Employment Minister Esther McVey said the program will battle long-term unemployment among over-50 job seekers by providing them with training in resume and interview skills, the internet and social media. In addition, she said experts would provide older workers with “career reviews” to identify skills from previous jobs and training needs.
The program will initially hire seven “older worker champions” across the UK who will focus on “going out to smaller and medium-sized businesses to ensure they recognise the benefits of hiring older workers” by challenging outdated stereotypes about older workers.
Long-term unemployment in the UK fell by 16 percent overall in the past year – but joblessness among workers over the age of 50 fell by only 3.5 percent. Almost half (47 percent) of all unemployed people between 50 and 64 in the UK have been out of work for a year or more – this compares with 33 percent for those aged 18 to 24.
“The plight of unemployed older workers has gone under the radar for too long. There’s something fundamentally wrong with so many skilled and experienced people finding themselves locked out of the workplace simply because of their age,” McVey told BBC Radio 5 live.
In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show that older workers in the United States face blatant and unaddressed age discrimination in hiring but no one seems to care. The problem is hidden here behind terms like “long term unemployment” and “early writing.”
I show that the U.S. government has not only failed to address the problem but actually made it incrementally worse in 2010 when President Barack Obama signed an executive order permitting federal agencies to bypass older workers and hire “recent graduates.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress has failed for five years to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which would make it slightly easier for plaintiffs to win age discrimination lawsuits.
Epidemic age discrimination in the United States has devastating consequences for older workers, who are forced to spend down their savings until they age into a financially insecure retirement where they suffer a 25 percent cut in Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives.
There are many facets to the problem of age discrimination in employment in the United States, not the least of which is that the problem seems to be invisible to federal policy makers.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was weak and riddled with loopholes to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Older workers today are literally second-class citizens under U.S. law, with far less protection than individuals who are discriminated against on the basis of race, sex and religion.
And no American group has emerged to effectively advocate for older workers.
The White House is planning a conference on aging in 2015. In recent months, I have made repeated efforts to contact the executive director of the conference, Nora Super, to urge her to address the problem of age discrimination in employment. I even sent her a copy of my book. I’ve received absolutely no response.