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Ageism ‘Distressingly Common’ in the Workforce, Our Expert Tells Labor Department

Gaps in employment can happen for many reasons: illness, caregiving responsibilities, an unexpected layoff. But older adults face disproportionate barriers to getting back into the workforce, and many are unable to find a job that matches their previous salary, Heather Tinsley-Fix, a senior advisor for financial resilience at AARP, said at a Department of Labor webinar on Thursday.

“It takes them about twice as long to get back into the workforce as it does for younger workers,” Tinsley-Fix said during the event. She cited a recent Urban Institute report that suggests only 1 in 10 workers age 50 and over who involuntarily leaves the workforce ever earns as much as they did before their separation.

Older adults who may not have searched for work in years may have a particularly hard time finding work, Tinsley-Fix said at the Thursday event, which was called Untapped Potential: Reimagining Equity for Workers with Gaps in Employment History. That’s partly because the nature of job hunting has changed and now involves online application processes and screening algorithms.

But she also said age discrimination is a factor, describing it as “pervasive” and “distressingly common,” despite federal and state laws that have been erected to mitigate it. Nearly 8 in 10 respondents to a recent AARP survey between the ages of 40 and 65 said they have either seen or personally experienced age discrimination in the workplace, which is the highest percentage we’ve seen since we started polling older adults about it in 2003.

Learn more about how AARP is fighting age discrimination, and watch a replay of the webinar on YouTube.

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