Older workers are often stereotyped as lacking education or suffering from health issues, when in fact the Urban Institute report discovered that over 33% of low-income older workers have a high school degree or general equivalency diploma (GED) as their highest level of education and an additional 30% of low-income older workers have either completed some college or obtained a two-year degree. Additionally, it’s typically thought that health issues may negatively affect low-income older adults’ ability to continue working in their current occupation, train for another occupation, or move up a career ladder. However, only 13% of low-income older workers actually report having any health difficulties.
In looking at the 10-year projected growth in low- and middle-wage occupations, the key highlights from the report include:
- Level of Education: The most common jobs for low-income older workers vary by their educational attainment. For the twenty percent of workers with less than a high school degree, the most common occupation is building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, while administrative support is the most common among the majority with a high school degree or more.
- Occupational Growth: The top four occupations projected to grow most rapidly between 2014 and 2024 are nursing/psychiatric/home health aides, other personal care/service workers/food and beverage serving workers and construction trades workers.
- Location Matters: There is a significant level of variance at the local and state level about the highest growth occupations. For example, Florida is a tourist state with growth in the food and beverage industry while Texas is growing in the construction trade industry.
- Communication Skills: Many opportunities require verbal and communication skills over technical skills. Basic skill requirements include those related to customer service and interpersonal skills: active listening, oral comprehension and oral expression.
“This report provides a deeper understanding of how to equip workforce programs with the tools required to serve low-income adults effectively,” explains Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation. “Older adults want to work and may need to work. By helping to build essential skills, we hope to enable older adults to keep their jobs and advance in their careers, so that poverty no longer haunts their futures.”
Defining low income as 300% or less of the 2015 federal poverty level ($35,310 or lower for a one-person household) and looking at workers age 50 and older, the Urban Institute revealed that there are 13.2 million low income older workers nationwide. With Americans living longer and working longer, workers age 55 and older are the only age group to experience strong growth in labor force participation rates in the past two decades. Employers filling jobs in the future will have to turn to older workers to fill their hiring needs. However, in order to be successful older workers need to rely on programs that can teach them the skills that are essential for the future of the workforce.
“This research will help us understand the occupations that are projected to grow and what skills low-income workers should be focusing on to succeed in the future,” said Ryerson. “Even a few additional years working makes a lasting difference for an older adult to stay out of poverty,” said Ryerson.
To read the first release about current employment for low-income older workers please visit https://press.aarp.org/.