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Older workers make up more of the workforce, EBRI says

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Dive Brief:

  • In an era when retirement is frequently at the forefront of ageism, diversity and benefits conversations, older adults now make up a larger share of American workforce members over the age of 55. The Employee Benefit Research Institute found that adults aged 65 and older made up 29.5% of the workforce in 2023, compared to an estimated 23% in 2000.
  • Additionally, EBRI noted that the share of Hispanic workers aged 55 and older more than doubled, with the share of older White workers dropping from about 87% to 81%.
  • The changing demographic characteristics of the older workforce are “important considerations for employers to understand, as older workers and a more diverse work force calls for additional or new answers to the optimal design of employee benefit plans,” Craig Copeland, director of wealth benefits at EBRI, said in a release.

Dive Insight:

People’s attitudes toward working later in life seem to be more open. About 58% of people in a September 2023 report said they’d be open to post-retirement employment, if not open to working indefinitely. 

Some of the motivation appears to be financial. More than half of respondents told Empower that they were worried about inflation or running out of money; nearly half said they were concerned about unexpected expenses. A senior financial advisor at the firm said in a statement, “Defining the ideal retirement is individual and comes down to priorities, values, and goals — both financial and personal.” 

Likewise, nearly 4 in 10 workers said that having a post-retirement job would help them stick to a routine, along with keeping their body and mind active. 

Regarding EBRI’s findings, Director of Wealth Benefits Research Craig Copeland said, “The movement of the Baby Boom generation out of the age groups younger than 65 has made the composition of the older workforce even older.” Likewise, Copeland noted that the older workforce is becoming more diverse, “as a smaller share of White Americans comprise the ages 55 or older population.”

As the share of older workers continues to grow, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has pursued age discrimination claims by enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The EEOC filed 12 lawsuits alleging age discrimination last year — mainly pertaining to hiring and discharge — and resolved five of the merit suits, the Office of General Counsel shows.

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