The AARP: Surveys but no Solutions

The AARP has been conducting surveys for years showing the existence of epidemic age discrimination in the American workplace and it released yet another one on Monday.

But the AARP seems unwilling to take a position on why the problem of unemployment and under-employment exists for older workers and what to do about it. Although the AARP markets itself as the nation’s leading advocate for Americans age 50 and older, it’s advocacy on this issue has been virtually non-existent. One can’t help but wonder if the AARP’s reticence reflects greater concern for its $3 billion a year profit-making enterprise selling health and travel insurance to retirees than the plight of older workers.

In my recent book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I indisputably show that older workers have virtually no protection against age discrimination in the workplace. This is a problem that has been getting worse for fifty years. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.  I propose repealing the ADEA and making age a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to insure that older workers receive the same level of protection as workers who are subject to illegal discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. All employment discrimination is based on irrational animus and unfounded stereotypes. There is absolutely no justification for treating older workers differently and, in fact, it is completely contrary to the bedrock principle of U.S. Constitutional that insures all Americans receive equal justice under the law.

Why isn’t the AARP lobbying Congress to provide equal justice for older workers? The AARP surveys generate a lot of wonderful free publicity for the AARP, which makes it appear that the AARP is actually doing something. But the reality is that no one is doing anything about the problem of age discrimination in the workplace, which reached crisis proportions during the Great Recession and is still wreaking havoc on older workers lives. Even the White House Conference on Aging refuses to acknowledge the issue, preferring instead to partner with t he AARP to address “healthy aging.”

For the record, the AARP’s latest survey released Monday shows that half of older workers who experienced unemployment in the last five years are not working: 38% reported they were unemployed and 12% had dropped out of the labor force.

Other findings in the AARP survey are:

  •  Half of Those Who Found Jobs Earn Less: 48% of the reemployed said that they were earning less on their current job than the job they had before they most recently become unemployed. Among the reemployed, half were earning less because they were being paid less, 10% were working fewer hours, and 39% gave both as reasons.
  • Many Settle for Part-Time Work: 41% of those who experienced long-term unemployment are working in part-time jobs.
  • Half Work in a New Occupation: 53% had an occupation different from the one they had prior to becoming unemployed. By way of comparison 63% of the long-term unemployed had a job in a different occupation, while 46% of the short-term unemployed were in a different occupation.
  • Training May Help: 25% of the respondents who landed jobs and participated in training or education programs in the previous five years said it helped a great deal in finding a job.

What else is new?

The survey consisted of polling 2,492 individuals between the ages of 45 to 50 between July and October of 2014.  All of the participants had been unemployed at some time during the past five years  The respondents were part of a randomly selected online panel

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