Over at the New York Times, there’s a piece called “Toil and Trouble: Growing numbers of the elderly have or want jobs. What will that mean for younger workers?”
If there were a Republican President, this would be a scathing piece about the horror of the old people having to work because the POTUS screwed up the economy. However, since Obama’s President, the piece is a good bit more neutral. Here are some of the details:
When economists and policy types and members of Congress talk about older Americans working past normal retirement age, an increasing theme of late, we tend to think they mean a few years beyond age 65, right? Working until ages 68 or 69, that is — maybe even 70, though that might be pushing it.
We know that the work force is graying, but except for outliers, your Willie Nelsons or Robert Duvalls, most of us don’t picture people staying on the job when they’re pushing 80. In fact, as readers were quick to comment when Sherisse Pham recently wrote here about her 73-year-old father, a supermarket greeter, we see age discrimination as a potent barrier, even as we appreciate the continuing engagement that employment might bring.
Recently, while mulling this issue (count me among those who hope to keep working), I was intrigued to hear from the ace data-crunchers at AARP that in the past 20 years the oldest group of workers, the 75-plus work force, has increased enormously. Seventy-five! And not only because there are simply more people that age around, but also because a higher percentage of them are participating in the labor force.
“There are some pretty striking changes going on,” said John Rother, AARP executive vice president for policy.
I’ll say. Sifting through the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, AARP analysts found that the number of workers ages 75 and older (meaning they’re employed or seeking employment) has grown to about 1.3 million in 2009, from just under half a million in 1989. That’s still a small sliver of the population over age 75, just 7.3 percent, but a big jump from the 1989 labor force participation rate of 4.3 percent.
We know that a growing proportion of this work force, almost 44 percent, are women. And a just-released Census Bureau report adds this surprising fact: of workers ages 75 to 84, more than 42 percent hold full-time jobs.
People having to work at 75? On sone gut level, this FEELS wrong, doesn’t it? Those are your golden years! You’re supposed to be retired, living in Florida, and enjoying the good life — or at least kicking back, taking in your Social Security, and playing a little Bingo now-and-again.
So, here’s an important question: Why do we have this expectation that we should be retired at 75?