Senate Aging Committee Releases Report Examining Opportunities and Challenges of America’s Aging Workforce
Click HERE for a copy of Senator Collins’ opening statement
Click HERE for a copy of Senator Casey’s opening statement
Washington, D.C.— With Americans living and working longer, the workplace has transformed in an unprecedented way. The number of Americans over the age of 55 in the labor force are projected to increase from 35.7 million in 2016 to 42.1 million in 2026, and, by 2026, aging workers will make up nearly one quarter of the labor force. At work, older Americans are productive, and the business case for hiring, retaining, and supporting older workers is strong.
U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, examined the phenomenon of the aging workforce in a hearing today, which featured the release of the new report by the Committee titled, “America’s Aging Workforce: Opportunities and Challenges.” The report highlights the historic number of Americans who are working past the age of 55, and analyzes new trends, as well as opportunities and challenges for workers and employers.
“The aging of our population has transformed our nation’s economy,” said Senator Collins. “As older Americans enter and remain in the workforce in record numbers, they provide skills and experiences that are often unmatched; work ethic and principles that can be exemplary; and vision that is uniquely informed by the past to frame the future."
“As a young lawyer I worked on age discrimination cases and I relied on ADEA a great deal to help workers fight back,” said Senator Casey. “At a time when more Americans are continuing to work until later in life, we must recognize and address the unique challenges that older employees face and ensure that our laws fully support all who wish to continue working by safeguarding them from age discrimination or forced retirement.”
Testimony came from Americans who have retrained for new careers later in life, as well as experts on the aging workforce and what employers can do to keep pace.
Ralph Jellison from Orland, ME, a Marine Corps veteran and Production Operator at GAC Chemical Corporation in Searsport, ME, testified about losing his job of 27 years at Verso Paper in Bucksport, ME and ultimately, going back to school and learning a new trade. Upon finishing a fine woodworking class at a local community college, he was hired at a local yacht building company, and is now employed at a chemical manufacturing plant.
Jellison said to the committee, “My life was turned upside down when I was 52 years old. But this opportunity to go back to school has brought me to this point in my life. We are back on our feet and I am providing for my family again. I cannot tell you how good that makes me feel. As dismal as things looked for a while, to where I am now. I only hope my story could be inspiration enough for someone else to better themselves after facing the same sort of situation that I did.”
Lisa Motta, a 54-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pa., testified about re-entering the workforce in her 50s and with a disability. Lisa, who lost her sight as an adult, is a former teacher who now works as a recruiting administrator at PNC. “As America’s workforce grows older, more and more workers will face challenges like these and will need additional supports and accommodations,” Motta said. “They will also need laws in place that ensure that when they walk into an interview they do not face any form of discrimination. When we make it easier for these workers to succeed, everyone benefits.”
2017 is the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age; however, age discrimination remains a problem. In February, Senators Collins and Casey, along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which would restore the ability of older workers to take legal action when age discrimination affects their professional opportunities, and would reaffirm that workers may use any type of admissible evidence to prove their claims.
Laurie McCann, senior attorney at AARP Foundation, testified on the prevalence and causes of age discrimination, and expressed AARP’s support for this legislation as “an excellent first step to restoring the playing field for older workers…” by “level[ing] the playing field for older workers under the law,” said McCann.
Fernand Cepero, Chief Human Resources Officer of the YMCA of Greater Rochester, underscored strategies employers can implement to retain and engage older workers. As the silver trend manifests, it will become increasingly important for employers to develop strategies to ensure success. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, by 2050, the number of individuals in the labor force who are age 65 or older is expected to grow by 75 percent, while those who are 25-54 is expected to grow by 2 percent.
The Senate Aging Committee is committed to understanding, embracing, and addressing the opportunities and challenges facing older workers. The Committee seeks to ensure that older workers are able to thrive at work and adequately prepare for retirement.
Click HERE to read the committee’s report.