The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost all industries. One of the sectors that has been severely hit by the pandemic is the labor market. According to the Labor Department, more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment. With senior members at higher risk, there has been growing unemployment for workers aged 55 and above.
The problem of unemployment has been compounded by other challenges like fear of job loss, kids at home, market volatility, and elder parents in distress. Many companies are pondering possible return-to-work formulae with new rules and strategies. However, a report by Michelle McQuaidn and the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University shows that 78% of workers are reluctant to return to the office. In addition, 22% of employees who are have set up work stations say that they are willing to return to office in the post-COVID-19 era.
The pandemic likely to reduce the number of older employees at workplaces
The pandemic will reverse the gains from increased labor-force participation of older people. In absence of a vaccine, older people vulnerable to virus, many are likely to withdraw from their workplaces. In addition, employees who are not so enthusiastic about old employees may decide to lay them off.
Some employees are already facing very little options from their employers, with some penalized or fired for missing shifts and many absences. At least 34 workplaces have filed complaints at various state and federal workplace safety agencies accusing their employers of not offering sufficient protection to older employees with pre-existing conditions.
Companies are reopening with care due to fears of a second outbreak
Many companies are cautious about their senior employees returning to the office, considering the CDC has termed them more vulnerable to the virus than their young counterparts. “It’s a dicey subject when [coronavirus] risks are age-related,” said Monique Morrissey, an economist specializing in older workers at the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, which focuses on low- and middle-income workers. “You want to address older workers, but not stigmatize them.”
Among older employees, another big risk that comes with losing a job is never getting another one. This makes the risk of unemployment even worse compared to young employees.