The Cold, Hard Truth About Ageism In The Workplace

July 17, 2019
Updated: July 18, 2019
Written by Bailey Reiners

Companies are finally getting serious about diversity and inclusion.

These days, businesses are realizing the societal and economic benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, and are going out of their way to stamp out unfair and out of date hiring and employment practices. But there’s one issue that’s still very much present in America’s workforce.  

Ageism. 

Despite the fact that older employees are often the most knowledgeable and experienced members of the workforce, they’re all too often overlooked in favor of younger, less experienced workers.  

We’re going to shed some light on the issue by delving into some cold hard facts on ageism in the workplace, including who and how it affects our evolving workforce.

 

Overview of Ageism in the Workplace

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The expected age for retirement is 66 years old

As of 2018, American workers expect to retire by age 66. That’s up three years from 2001, when the average retirement age was 63. 

75% of the Us population has less than $250,000 saved for retirement

Most people expect to live at least 20 years after retiring, and with $250,000, in the bank, a retiree can expect to live off of $12,500 each year for the last years of their lives. And those are the the wealthiest 25% of the US retirees.

$172,000 is the median savings for AMericans in their sixties

If people expect to retire at 66, with $172,000 in the bank, Americans will have $8,600 (before taxes) to spend each year. Also, that's if they only live 20 years after retiring, if they live longer, they will have even less each year to cover medical bills, housing and food. 

Currently, only 10% of people aged 65-69 are employed

Once people hit their mid to late sixties, 90% of the population has left the workforce. Whether they retire or leave due to age discrimination, that’s a significant decrease in workers over the span of roughly 10 years. 

On the flip side, 20% of workers are aged 55+

Just 10 years younger, in the United States, 20% of workers are aged 55+. That’s one fifth of the entire working population that is made up of people in the last ten years of their careers. These are also the people with the most working knowledge and experience. 

Of that age group, 50% of people aged 55-64 are employed

Half of people aged 55-64 are currently employed, meaning that a significant number of people who are younger than the expected retirement age have already left the workforce.

Not only that, but the percent of workers aged 55+ has doubled

Over the past 25 years, the percent of workers aged 55+ has doubled. The number of people entering the last phase of their working years is on the rise, and with retirement ages increasing, more people are looking to stay in the workforce longer. 

In 1967, the Age discrimination Employment Act was passed

It wasn’t until the ADEA was established in 1967 that job candidates and employees who are aged 40+ were protected by law from facing discrimination in the workplace on the basis of age. 

Then in 1998, the Workforce Investment Act was passed

The WIA protects all applicants and employees from discrimination based on age. It also protects individuals from discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, political affiliation or belief. 

When the ADEA was first passed, between 1,000-5,000 ageism complaints were filed

It didn’t take employees long to start utilizing the new resources to stand up for their rights. In the first few years after the ADEA passed in 1967, between 1,000-5,000 complaints were filed on the basis of age.

In 2017 alone, more than 18,000 age discrimination complaints were filed

The number of age discrimination complaints varies by year, and while 18,000 complaints sure sounds like a lot compared to the initial filings, in 2008 (during the latest recession) more than 24,000 ageism complaints were filed.

Age discrimination is not only unethical, it's expensive

The most expensive lawsuits resulting form age discrimination at work have cost companies between $2.85 million to $250 million. Many of which are due to companies lowering age for retirement and disability pension benefits as well as laying off or mistreating older workers.

Since 1967, more than $91 million has been recovered for age discrimination complaints

You read right. More than $91 million has been recovered in lawsuits since 1967 on behalf of people who experienced age discrimination at work.

 

 

Who experiences Ageism in the workplace

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58% of workers notice age bias when people enter their 50's

As people start to enter their fifties, they are more attuned to discrimination in the workplace. So much so that 58% of workers in their fifties or older have noticed age discrimination first hand.

95% of people who experience age DIScrimination notice it regularly

Of the people who experience age bias, 95% see it as a common occurrence in the workplace. 

People aged 25 and younger are 2x less likely to experience age discrimination

People are 2x less likely to experience age discrimination when they are 25 or younger. 

33% of people believe their age is putting their job at risk 

Among full time employees age 45 or older who feel they could potentially lose their job within the next year, 33% of them believe it will be due to their age.

7% of people report losing their job due to age discrimination 

Turns out the fear of losing your job due to age discrimination is real. Around 7% of people report being laid off, fired or forced out of a job due to age discrimination. 

Even though workers aged 50+ are the most engaged employees

Firing, laying off or forcing these individuals out of the workplace is to everyone's detriment. Employees aged 50+ are known as being the most engaged in the workplace, not to mention the most experienced.

Only 7% of workers later in life notice improved workplace experience

A meager 7% of older workers experience improved workplace treatment as they age. If you thought with age would come respect, that doesn't seem to be the case for the vast majority of older workers.

In fact, 12% of people lose out on a promotion due to age bias 

That’s more than 1 in 10 people who believe they were passed over for a promotion due to age discrimination

15% of workers would not want a boss who was aged 70+

Seniority apparently has its limits, as 15% of workers report that they would not want a boss who is aged 70+. This is especially peculiar, considering some of the world's most powerful business leaders are between the ages of 70 and 95. 

People actually prefer a boss who is 30 than a boss who is 70+

Not only do people not want a boss that is past retirement age, but it’s also 3x more accepted to have a boss who is 30 than a boss who is 70+.

 

 

Ageism in the Job Search

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About 47% of workers aged 55-64 re-enter employment

Nearly half of people aged 55-64 exit and re-enter the workforce during that age period.

13% of retirees are either still working or seeking work

Of the people who do retire, 13% of them continue working to some degree or are actively looking for work.

An average of 13% of people are forced to retire

Between 1998-2014, an average of 13% of older employees were forced into retirement. 

It takes Baby Boomers around 46 weeks to find a new job

It takes Baby Boomers approximately 46 weeks to find a new job. It takes the average person 43 days to find, interview for and start a new job. Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964), on the other hand, can expect the same process to take 46 weeks. Our most experienced workers spend nearly a full year searching for a job. How much sense does that make?

76% of people expect their job search to take more than three months due to ageism

The majority of people believe it will take them longer (more than three months) to find a job because of age bias. 

Not only that, but more than 3 out of 4 workers view age as an inhibiting factor in receiving a job offer

Age bias is thought to not only contribute to how long it takes employees to find a job, but it is thought to prevent people from getting jobs, according to 3 of 4 workers.

In fact, 1 in 5 workers aged 40+ report not getting at least one job due to age discrimination

 With 1 in 5 workers age 40+ reporting not getting at least one job due to age discrimination, it’s no wonder it takes older employees longer to find a job.

Of companies that have diversity hiring strategies, only 8% include age

Sure, many companies talk about hiring diverse talent, but what do they really mean by that? Unfortunately age is often all but forgotten among 92% of companies that actually do have diversity hiring strategies in place.

Industry can also have an affect on age discrimination 

70% of IT workers report experiencing or noticing age discrimination at work. 

The tech industry in general struggles with ageism

More than 40% of older tech workers are concerned their jobs are in jeopardy due to their age. 

Yet, the age of successful entrepreneurs in some of the highest growth industries is 40

40 is the average age of a successful entrepreneur in the aerospace, computer and health care industries.

 

 

Differences in Ageism in the Workplace

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Women are becoming more vocal than ever about age bias

In recent years, more women have filed age bias complaints than men, whereas the opposite was true 30 years ago. 

72% of women aged 45-74 believe people experience workplace age discrimination

Nearly three out of four women notice ageism happening in the workplace. But not everyone experiences or notices age discrimination the same. 

Whereas 57% of men aged 45-74 believe people experience workplace age discrimination

Interestingly, significantly fewer men think that people actually experience ageism in workplace. Men are 15% less likely than women to notice ageism.

Workers who are white experience ageism at work less than other groups

On average, 59% of workers who are white report experiencing age discrimination at work. 

And the number of age discrimination complaints by white workers has decreased 

Since 1990, the number of age discrimination complaints filed by workers who are white has decreased by one third.

Hispanic and Latino workers experience ageism at a slightly higher frequency

61% of workers who are Hispanic or Latino report experiencing age discrimination at work. 

77% of workers who are black experience ageism

As we can see, race is another factor that contributes to who experiences ageism in the workplace. More than three out of four workers who are black report experiencing age discrimination at work. 

Also, the number of complaints by black and Asian workers has doubled

In contrast to workers who are white, since 1990, the number of age discrimination complaints have doubled among black and Asian workers as of 2017.

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