Poll: Some younger work­ers want ag­ing work­ers to re­tire al­ready

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Business - BY AN­DREW SOERGEL As­so­ci­ated Press

Some younger work­ers aren’t par­tic­u­larly thrilled to see a rising share of older Amer­i­cans forgo re­tire­ment and con­tinue work­ing, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent poll by The As­so­ci­ated Press-NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search.

The poll found that work­ers younger than 50 were sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to view Amer­ica’s ag­ing work force as a neg­a­tive de­vel­op­ment when com­pared with their older coun­ter­parts. About 4 in 10 re­spon­dents ages 18 to 49 and 44% of the youngest re­spon­dents ages 18 to 29 said they con­sider the trend to be a bad thing for Amer­i­can work­ers. Just 14% of those ages 60 and over said the same.

“I don’t think in things like IT and medicine you’re as effective a worker (at 65 years old) as you are at 50,” says Katie Ot­ting, 29, who lives near San Diego. “If some 65year-old is in a po­si­tion that he’s not ready to quit be­cause he wants a bet­ter pen­sion and there’s some­one else ready to take that job, they’re not go­ing to re­place him.”

An ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, elevated health care costs and lin­ger­ing fi­nan­cial un­cer­tainty af­ter the Great Re­ces­sion all are thought to con­trib­ute to Amer­ica’s steadily graying work force. Nearly 20% of Amer­i­cans older 65 were em­ployed or ac­tively look­ing for work last year, up from less than 12% two decades ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics.

But the in­creased preva­lence of older work­ers has led some to think se­niors are hold­ing back the coun­try’s eco­nomic mo­men­tum by re­main­ing in the work force. Men were slightly more likely than women to cite the ag­ing work force as a prob­lem for U.S. work­ers (32% to 27%). And about a third (34%) of more af­flu­ent re­spon­dents earn­ing more than $100,000 an­nu­ally said the same, slightly more than the 24% of those earn­ing less than $30,000 who said so.

By con­trast, about 6 in 10 Amer­i­cans ages 60 and older say the trend has been a good thing for the econ­omy, com­pared with 3 in 10 Amer­i­cans younger than 30 who think that.

About a third of Amer­i­cans younger than 50 who have no­ticed the trend in their work­places think the ag­ing work force has neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions for their own ca­reers.

“One of the myths that’s out there caus­ing younger and older peo­ple to butt heads is the idea that ‘Oh, it’s be­cause th­ese older peo­ple are on the job pre­vent­ing me from get­ting the job I want,’ ” says Steve Burghardt, 74, a pro­fes­sor of so­cial work at City Univer­sity of New York, who thinks Amer­i­cans are “look­ing for some­one younger or some­one older to blame” for in­equal­ity, job dis­place­ment and other eco­nomic prob­lems.

Re­search is mixed on the ag­ing work force’s over­all im­pact on the U.S. econ­omy. Adam Oz­imek, a se­nior econ­o­mist at Moody’s An­a­lyt­ics, says his ear­lier re­search ef­forts have sug­gested that a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of older work­ers can slow pro­duc­tiv­ity and ul­ti­mately hamper wage growth for the rest of the la­bor mar­ket.

But he says there’s lit­tle ev­i­dence to sug­gest that the pres­ence of older work­ers is “crowd­ing younger work­ers out of pro­mo­tions,” and many of the work­ers who would nat­u­rally move up and re­place po­si­tions cur­rently held by baby boomers are not mil­len­ni­als but rather mid­dle-aged mem­bers of Gen­er­a­tion X.

“In anx­ious times, we look for scape­goats. And old peo­ple are a ready scape­goat, espe­cially if you are forced out of hav­ing a pub­lic pres­ence or are forced (out of a job),” says Ashton Ap­ple­white, a New York-based writer and ageism ac­tivist.

The idea that older work­ers are keep­ing jobs away from younger Amer­i­cans, pre­vent­ing them from mov­ing up the cor­po­rate ladder into high­er­rank­ing, higher-pay­ing po­si­tions, is not a new one. But economists say it doesn’t have much ba­sis in eco­nomic re­al­ity.

“The more of those se­niors con­tinue to work, that means they’re also spend­ing. And that spend­ing helps build a rich econ­omy that gives you jobs and lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” says An­drew Cham­ber­lain, chief econ­o­mist at em­ploy­ment hub Glass­door.

But Cham­ber­lain and Oz­imek say it might be eas­ier to think older work­ers are hold­ing back their younger coun­ter­parts when look­ing at the econ­omy on a smaller scale. One par­tic­u­lar com­pany, for ex­am­ple, may employ only one chief of mar­ket­ing. Should that per­son choose to re­main in the work force un­til he or she is 80, lower-rank­ing em­ploy­ees may per­ceive a lack of up­ward mo­bil­ity.

A com­pa­ra­ble job may be ripe for the tak­ing else­where, Cham­ber­lain says, but it may be at an­other com­pany or in an­other city that would re­quire a move that many em­ploy­ees may be un­will­ing to make.

“They feel like their op­por­tu­ni­ties are only within that firm,” Cham­ber­lain says. “I think it’s just sim­ple con­fu­sion. I think peo­ple are mix­ing up (op­por­tu­ni­ties) just in­side one com­pany ver­sus the over­all job mar­ket.”

Mean­while, many older work­ers are com­ing to terms with the fact that they’ll need to re­main in the work force to keep their heads above water or main­tain their cur­rent lifestyles.

Mitch Roth­schild, 61, lives and works in New York City and says he ex­pects he is “prob­a­bly go­ing to have to work un­til I die.” He says the ag­ing work force is less of an eco­nomic prob­lem and more of a fi­nan­cial re­al­ity to which work­ers of all ages need to adapt.

“Hey, look, I wished I’d been ski­ing in the Alps since I was 40,” he says. “But you think I’m go­ing to stop work­ing a year from now and rely on So­cial Se­cu­rity for the next 20 years? No.”

The AP-NORC Cen­ter sur­vey of 1,423 adults was con­ducted by The As­so­ci­ated Press-NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search Feb. 14-18 us­ing a sam­ple drawn from NORC’s prob­a­bil­ity-based Amer­iS­peak Panel, which is de­signed to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. The mar­gin of sam­pling er­ror for all re­spon­dents is plus or mi­nus 3.7 per­cent­age points. Re­spon­dents were first se­lected ran­domly us­ing ad­dress-based sam­pling meth­ods and later were in­ter­viewed on­line or by phone.

K.VINEYS AP

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