Supreme court

Older workers getting shafted

Remember the phrase, "getting shafted"? Did it come from the movie, "Shaft"? Or was it the other way around? Anyway, older workers are taking some of whatever it is, according to a New York Times business section story this weekend, as well as a US Supreme Court decision from last week. The Times story, by writer Steve Lohr, says that Social Security would be a lot more secure if workers would hang in there for another few years past the 62 or 63 retirement age and keep contributing. However, many employers are not willing to allow that, believing that older workers are less productive and out-of-touch with new technologies.

There are, it seems, too few such workers and employers. The average retirement age for men now is 63 and for women 62. But the emphatic conclusion of recent research into retirement policy and labor markets is that working another two or three years would have a surprisingly powerful impact on the retirement living standards of millions of boomers and on the economy.

The economic gains, according to a report published this month by the McKinsey Global Institute, a research group, would include increased household savings, higher tax collections and a reduction of the fiscal strain on Social Security and Medicare; together, that would add an estimated $13 trillion to the economy by 2025, or about a year's total output of goods and services today.

The reality that Lohr is not willing to confront in a meaningful way is that people are getting laid off in later years -- past the tender age of 40, even -- and fairly often don't have the option of working into their mid-60s.

The Supremes have made it easier, with their recent decision, to sue for age discrimination in job terminations. However, some brave soul is going to have to wade into the courtroom to build a record of decisions against individual employers before the court decision is put into practice.