The State of the Older Workforce
A letter from CWI Labs founder & CEO Gary Officer and WorkingNation founder & CEO Art Bilger
Founder & CEO
CWI Labs and WorkingNation welcome you to Overlooked and Sidelined: Workers at the Intersection of Age, Race, and Gender, a digital magazine examining the world of work for older workers and job seekers.
Our vision for the future is an inclusive multigenerational workforce where every adult job seeker can hone their skills and experience to meet local demand and take full advantage of opportunities to achieve and sustain economic security.
The COVID pandemic exposed the particular vulnerabilities of being older, female, and Black or Hispanic in our nation’s workforce. And that vulnerability has proved persistent despite post-pandemic gains within our workforce.
For older workers, the Great Resignation has been a “Great Shedding.” Although workers of all ages were let go during the pandemic, older workers have had the most difficulty reentering the workforce.
Overall, two-thirds of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic are now re-employed. However, when those numbers are broken down to workers age 50 and above, only 30% are re-employed. The labor force participation rate for workers aged 65 and older at 19.1% is 1.7 percentage points lower than it was before the pandemic.
Founder & CEO
Older workers are critical to our national labor force. By 2024, older workers will comprise the largest single segment of the American workforce. This year, absorbing older workers back into the workforce will require a fundamental re-evaluation of our workforce priorities and a willingness to embrace the many talents – and skills – embedded within this segment of the workforce, as well as a continuing acknowledgement in hiring practices that age is just a number.
The exclusion of older Americans from opportunities for good, life-sustaining jobs within the workforce is not only a moral and an economic issue, it is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. Despite their critical role in our labor force, women continue to face systemic gender bias to enter and succeed in our job market. And, when they reach a certain age, gender bias is compounded with age bias.
The result is high levels of poverty and few opportunities to upskill, reskill, and find employment that pays a living wage.
Data from the University of Massachusetts-Boston show that more than half of older women in the U.S. no longer have enough income to afford essential expenses. And, by the time a woman is 65, she is 80% more likely than a man to live in poverty.
Older women of color are disproportionately impacted by each of these forces. A 2022 report by Payscale indicated that Black women are more likely than other female workers to be paid less despite having the same level of experience and other compensable factors as white men doing the same job.
Now is the time for change. The tight labor market and the corresponding shift to an increasingly hybrid workforce has created a unique window of opportunity for older workers and employers. The inevitability of the total transformation in our relationship to our jobs – and how and where we perform our tasks – will require a new set of technological and digital skills for employees to be successful. For low-income and older workers, this will require a renewed investment in workforce training.
One example of a unique approach being undertaken is the CWI Labs’ Digital Certification Program or DCP. DCP is a traditional workforce development program in that it is designed to meet the job seeker at their current skill level, to provide digital and technological training, and, once completed, to assist the individual in securing a job. Moreover, DCP expands upon this traditional approach to address the durable skills unique to a remote and hybrid workplace while simultaneously working with the employer to combat unconscious ageism.
The U.S. workforce development community must provide our nation’s job seekers with the tools to compete and succeed in our fast-evolving workforce. And it is incumbent on the workforce community to ensure that our nation’s older, female job seekers of color are in the forefront of this transformation.
There are millions of American job seekers who are relying on us to get this right. The timing for such development efforts could not be any better.
CWI Labs and WorkingNation invite you to join us in this important mission.
Founder & CEO
Founder & CEO