Generation X workers could bear the brunt of a global unemployment crisis as the pandemic exacerbates existing challenges for older workers, according to a new report.
Rapid digital adoption during the pandemic has accelerated job automation and exacerbated underlying age discrimination, making it harder for mid-career workers to secure positions, according to the report from Generation, a nonprofit employment organization.
In a global study titled “Meeting the world’s midcareer challenge,” the company found that newcomers and workers between the ages of 45 and 60 are facing increasing barriers due to prejudice among hiring managers and reluctance to learn new skills . .
Generation CEO said the report made “a series of age discrimination” for the first time.
It is very clear that after a certain age it becomes much more difficult to get access to a job.
Dr. Mona Mourshed
“This is a population that is absolutely in need and it is very clear that beyond a certain age it becomes much more difficult to find work,” Mona Mourshed told CNBC Make It.
Old errors prevail
For the study, which was carried out between March and May 2021, 3,800 employed and unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 60 as well as 1,404 HR managers in seven countries were surveyed.
Despite the diverse international job landscape – from the USA to Great Britain and India to Italy – the results were by and large the same: 45- to 60-year-olds are most often overlooked. Indeed, middle-career people have made up a consistently high proportion of the long-term unemployed over the past six years.
Above all, the study found that HR managers aged 45 and over rate the worst cohort in terms of willingness to apply, fitness and previous experience.
Their main concerns included the perceived reluctance of older workers to try out new technologies (38%), the inability to learn new skills (27%) and the difficulty of working with other generations (21%).
This comes despite evidence that older workers often outperform their younger colleagues. In fact, nearly nine in ten (87%) hiring managers said their new hires who are 45 years or older were as good or better than younger employees.
Mourshed said the results highlight underlying prejudices in the workplace.
“It is often the case that like identifies with like when it comes to ‘isms’,” she said.
For example, she explained, there is a tendency for hiring managers to choose hires in their age group. In the meantime, resume-based interviews can make it difficult for candidates to demonstrate their skills, she added.
Reintegration of a lost workforce
Training could be a solution to the problem. Nonetheless, the report also emphasized the reluctance of jobseekers aged 45 and over to undertake training.
More than half (57%) of entry-level and intermediate-level job seekers expressed resistance to retraining, while only 1% of respondents said the training increased their confidence in finding a job. Often this is due to negative educational experiences, conflicting personal responsibilities, and the lack of available programs and financial support for mid-career workers, Mourshed said.
As we are in 2021, cross-generational workforces must become a reality.
Dr. Mona Mourshed
However, she insisted that training can provide real benefits. In the study, almost three quarters (73%) of career changers aged 45+ said that attending training courses helped them secure their new position.
It is one of several solutions Mourshed is proposing as businesses and governments grapple with labor shortages. Other solutions she outlined are:
- Linking training programs directly with job opportunities and providing scholarships to support workers aged 45 and over who are reluctant to complete training.
- Change in recruitment practices to reduce potential age bias and to better assess the potential of applicants aged 45 and over with the help of demonstrative exercises.
- Reconsider the current training approaches for employers to make it easier to fill new positions with existing employees aged 45 and over, rather than relying on new hires.
- Improving employment data at the national level to support government organizations in addressing the unique challenges of certain age groups.
“As we move into 2021, the intergenerational workforce must be a reality that every company aspires to,” said Mourshed.
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