“Generation & OECD Report – Workers Over Age 45: A Substantial and Expanding Segment of the Workforce, Posing a Valuable Talent Opportunity for Employers in Adapting to an Increasingly Digital and Sustainable Landscape.”
New data from Generation, the global employment non-profit, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), reveals employers need to radically rethink how they approach midcareer and older talent.
The Midcareer Opportunity: Meeting the challenges of an ageing workforce report outlines insights from OECD data and from an eight-country survey of thousands of employers, job seekers, and employees in Europe and the US. The research in Europe was funded by Google.org, and in the United States by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.
People aged 45-64 accounted for 40% of the OECD workforce as of 2020, compared to only 28% in 1990, representing a growing share of the available talent pipeline.
“Aging workers are an important asset, given their skill sets, experience, and commitment,” said Stefano Scarpetta, Director, Directorate Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD. “Retaining them in the workforce is key to sustaining high living standards in our economies. And with businesses struggling to recruit, it’s more important than ever that all stakeholders do more to make longer and fulfilling careers a reality for all workers, regardless of age”.
But the report’s findings show employers are not seizing this opportunity. Nearly 40% of employers said they would hire someone aged 20-29, and nearly half (47%) indicated they would hire from the 30-44 cohort. Whereas just one in three (35%) said they would hire someone aged 45-54. This lowers to just 13% who say they would hire someone aged 55-65.
Consequently, people aged 45-64 are a sizable, growing share of the long-term unemployed, and within surveyed countries – the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States – they accounted for 44% of the long-term unemployed in 2020, up from 36% in 2000.
While employers do value experience, the advantage for candidates declines over time. In the survey, hiring managers said they’d be as likely to interview someone with five years of experience as they would someone with 25 years.
This is driven by concerns that workers aged 45+ are unable to adapt to rapidly changing technology. More than half (52%) of employers generally say that 30-44 year olds have the right tech skills for work, but only 30% say the same for workers over age 45. Employers also believe that midcareer and older job applicants are less likely than younger peers to try new technologies or learn new skills.
Yet, there is an age-performance paradox: employers highly value the age 45+ employees they already have. 89% said that the midcareer and older workers they had hired performed as well or better than their younger hires, and that they learn as quickly if not more so (83%).
“Employers are missing out on talented candidates aged 45 and older,” said Mona Mourshed, Global CEO of Generation. “There is plenty of evidence that workers aged 45+ can thrive in the workplace. Employers can fill needed roles and boost organization performance by changing hiring practices to embrace candidates of all ages.”
Midcareer and older job seekers feel the weight of age biases. Regardless of education attainment level, more than half of job seekers (53-54%) said the job search is difficult, with age cited as the most common barrier.
The findings also highlight a disconnect between what employers value the most and how midcareer and older individuals position themselves in the workplace.
Employers place great importance on continuous training and upskilling, but midcareer and older workers too often believe that work experience alone is sufficient proof of job readiness – less than 1 in 4 have participated in training in the past three years. Training participation decreases with age, and this holds true across education levels.
Access to these opportunities can be one of the issues, with only half of employers (53%) offering training, leaving workers to seek out various alternatives on their own.
In addition, workers 45+ are not looking for jobs in the right places. Employers look to recruiting firms, referrals, and LinkedIn to hire talent . Yet while 50% of employers use LinkedIn, only 24% of older workers cite LinkedIn as one of their “preferred” job channels.
The report lays out thirteen concrete recommendations for employers, policy makers, and midcareer and older individuals to enable an intergeneration workforce.