Why older workers remain on the sidelines of the workforce

A story broadcast by NPR details why older workers remain disinclined to return to work even during volatile economic circumstances

People who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic have largely returned to a job, bringing the total number of workers back to nearly pre-pandemic levels. One cohort this does not apply to, however, is workers at or over the age of 55. This is according to a story broadcast this week by National Public Radio (NPR).

“One of the reasons that we saw older workers feel empowered to leave the labor market during COVID is that their balance sheets were fine,” said Brookings Institution Economic Studies Fellow Lauren Bauer to the outlet.

The statistic holds especially true for older workers with a college education, who have returned to the workforce in lower numbers than their younger counterparts.

“The pandemic gave many [older college-educated workers] time to rethink their priorities,” the story says. “It also left many of them in good financial shape. Bauer points out this is very unlike what happened after the Great Recession, when the housing market crashed and many older workers couldn’t retire because they couldn’t afford to. In fact, in those years, older workers helped grow the economy, making up for the under-55 crowd who’d dropped out of the workforce.”

The pandemic has offered a reversed scenario to the one seen in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis, Bauer explains. The lack of older workers returning to their jobs is part of the reason why the workforce generally has been lagging in its return to pre-pandemic strength, but Bauer notes that seniors having the ability and flexibility to retire should not be diminished.

“I would rather have people […] stay out of the labor force because they’re able to retire with financial security than drive them back into the labor force because their situations have become more precarious,” she says.

That’s not to say that such situated workers who have thus far chosen not to return to work wouldn’t change their minds at some point. Inflation is hovering at 8%, the stock market is turbulent and older Americans are likely to be impacted disproportionately due to their general reliance on a fixed income. At least one senior who spoke to NPR for the story says that while a return to work is not planned, it could always serve as a “plan B.”

Read or listen to the story at NPR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular Articles

3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

Log In

Forgot Password?

Don't have an account? Please