Age Discrimination as Baby Boomers Search for Work

There is a lot of gray hair at Job Fairs, and it’s been like that for over two years. In the news for the last two months there has been a hint that there is a drop in the percentage of American unemployment. Once people run out of unemployment benefits their numbers are not counted. They are still unemployed. The difference is that their social security number is no longer tabulated in the roll call of unemployment benefits. The computer incorrectly assumes that if a person’s social security number no longer shows up on the unemployment list, then they must be employed. The government computers should start tabulating the baby boomers, which have exhausted their unemployment benefits over the course of 99 weeks. Although Boomers might not be aware of it, they have secretly joined the rapidly growing underground society of the 99ers.

The Boomers are quite familiar with the underground movements from the 1960s and 1970s, and this caused positive social reforms to problems across the United States. There were serious growing pains involved, and the trauma will never be forgotten. Now, many decades later, this bulge in population is confronted with another serious social problem: unemployment. With the rapid advance of technology and globalization of business, American Baby Boomers are left high and dry. They are 10 years short of Social Security, and since they are unemployed they may have to use their 401k long before they intended. If you are age 55 plus, and unemployed, you can dip into your 401k and end up putting that money back into the economy prematurely. All those years of living below your means to save that money for a security net you never dreamed would be used long before your 65th birthday.

Back in 1967 the federal government installed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act [i] that allegedly prohibits employment discrimination with respect to people over forty. The content of the Act addresses the problems of older workers seeking new employment after loosing their jobs. At the time this Act became law it was impossible to look at how it would apply to a future generation 44 years later. In 1967 the Baby Boomers were only in their early to mid twenties, and in review there was a very good reason they were coined the Baby Boomer Generation. There was a tremendous increase in births after the Second World War. It is a very hard task to prove age discrimination referred to in the 1967 Age Discrimination Act. Yet, as unemployed Boomers will tell you, without a doubt, age discrimination is alive and well in the United States.

There have been a few studies conducted that confirm the wide spread existence of age discrimination. The wake up call in the studies focus on Boomers looking for work to carefully review the resume, and take a workshop on how the new style of resumes should be constructed. The style is not the same as it was only 3 years ago, when the American economy took a nose dive. Things have changed in resume formats during this very short period. Do not put your photo on your resume, to some degree you must avoid the objective paragraph, and if there is a second page make sure it’s really worth while to send. And, in the Human Resource positions of the present day, most cover letters are not read due to the quantity of the applications received. Keep in mind that the Bush School of Government and Public Service [ii] learned that 40% of companies are likely to interview younger adults for employment openings. Will you expect to find people your own age in the human resource positions?

Some states have special programs in place that assist Boomers. In the State of Michigan there is the 55+ Program that provides workshops and a tremendous amount of help. Yet, these programs are in jeopardy of being eliminated as funding is cut from the government. Generally speaking, and contrary to some popular beliefs, most Boomers have taken very good care of their health and are eager to become employed. It is a serious loss to American society where the only employment to come for Boomers are minimum wage jobs with little opportunity for upward mobility.

In my opinion this situation needs a call to action. First, we need to identify the truth of the situation. Let’s go ahead and extend the Tier 5 unemployment benefits for another 14 weeks. This will be a Band-Aid in the economy, a sugar high so to speak, but it will be a short term stimulus none-the-less. From this extension via the social security numbers lets make public the demographics of the situation. In the analysis let’s provide an extensive amount of categories other than just a few. The internet is here to provide the results to all citizens. Everyone can judge for themselves the situation with American unemployment. Let’s put an end to conspiracy theories and place things out in the open. In the next election you can bet there is going to be a tsunami of Baby Boomers voting. Second, in order for people to eat, I would take a serious look at lowering minimum payments of social security to the age of 55, and allow part-time employment for those on minimum Social Security to be a helpful income not detrimental regarding taxation. Third, expand small business growth by allowing foundations to provide small grants to the private sector to develop small businesses with growth potential. Call them trickle grants of $2000 or less. Don’t limit foundations to grant only to tax exempt organizations because of the write-offs. Right now there is no opportunity for Boomers to start a small business because their time is spent on pursuing full or part time employment. There is a wealth of knowledge in the Baby Boomer generation, and many have Green ideas that need a platform with their personal touch to develop.