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Older Workers Face Challenges in Oregon's Job Market

It is Employ Older Workers Week. In Oregon, 13 percent of the workplace civil rights complaints to the state are about age discrimination. Courtesy: AARP
It is Employ Older Workers Week. In Oregon, 13 percent of the workplace civil rights complaints to the state are about age discrimination. Courtesy: AARP
September 24, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - This is "Employ Older Workers Week," and within five years, the U.S. Labor Department says one in four Americans on the job will be age 55 or older.

Some companies are adapting to this demographic shift better than others, according to AARP. Its report on older workers released earlier this year found eight in 10 say they give extra effort on the job, and see their work as an important part of who they are.

Employers just need to know that they'll be a good return on investment, says Joyce DeMonnin, outreach director for AARP Oregon.

"We still have some work to do to convince businesses that older workers create a huge economic asset for them - not only their knowledge, skills and ability, but their desire to be productive, to get along and mentor younger people," says DeMonnin.

The report also found workers age 50 and older value stability at work, and are about 40 percent less likely than younger counterparts to change jobs if an unexpected new opportunity comes up.

Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries says age-discrimination makes up 13 percent of all its civil rights complaints or close to 250 a year. Most involve workers who are already on the job, but DeMonnin says she still hears complaints around the state about age discrimination in hiring.

"It is a real problem," she says. "First of all, it is the law to be open to all ages; older workers are protected. But secondly, customers are inter-generational - so to be competitive today, we want to have a workforce that reflects the market."

She adds that a number of state-based and national companies are getting the picture and making an effort to employ older workers, for their adaptability and experience.

The Labor Department says by 2020, seven percent of the U.S. workforce will be age 65 or older.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR