The Job Problem for Older Workers

March 29, 1938

Report Outline
Federal Study of Age Factor in Employment
Extent of Age Discrimination in Industry
Reasons for Development of Age Barrier
Security Measures for Older Workers
Special Focus

Federal Study of Age Factor in Employment

Difficulties experienced by workers over 40 or 45 years of age in finding employment in industry led Secretary of Labor Perkins last month to appoint a national advisory committee, representative of industry, labor, and the public, to consider the whole problem and recommend measures to reduce or remove discrimination against the older worker in the labor market. At the conclusion of an initial two-day session of the committee at Washington, February 23 and 24, its chairman, Chancellor Harry Wood-burn Chase of New York University, voiced the group's unanimous conviction “that constructive approaches to the problem are possible.”

After a second meeting in mid-March the committee stated that it was “positive that much of the discrimination against older workers is entirely without justification.” Pointing out that “the determining factors in employment obviously should be physical fitness, skill, and experience, rather than age,” the committee announced that it had begun an analysis of all issues involved in the relationship between age and the economic values of a person's labor, including efficiency, skill, and experience, and the incidence and cost of industrial accidents, disease, and illness. The effects of pension plans and group insurance upon employment practices also were to be investigated. “Once these facts are brought together,” the statement concluded, “the committee expects to have a basis for recommendations with regard to both public and private employment policy, on the basis of which an informed public opinion may be developed.”

Growing Recognition of Problem of Older Worker

The problem of the older worker was recognized in some states and cities as far back as 30 or 40 years ago, but it elicited no more than sporadic attention until after the World War. Protests against discriminatory age practices grew in volume in the 1920's notwithstanding the high level of industrial activity then prevailing. Beginning in 1928, a number of inquiries were undertaken by private organizations and official studies of the question were made in five states. During the depression the problem of the older worker tended to be submerged in the greater problem of cyclical unemployment. Although continued special consideration was given to it in Massachusetts and New York, it was not until re-employment was well under way that the public generally was made aware of the fact that in the industrial revival then proceeding older workers were not faring proportionately as well as younger persons.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Older Americans and Senior Citizens
Jun. 07, 2019  The Retirement Crunch
Sep. 30, 2011  Prolonging Life
Mar. 15, 2011  The Graying Planet
Oct. 13, 2006  Caring for the Elderly
Feb. 20, 1998  Caring For the Elderly
Aug. 01, 1997  Age Discrimination
Dec. 06, 1991  Retiree Health Benefits
Aug. 19, 1988  The Elderly in an Aging America
Nov. 21, 1986  Home Health Care
Aug. 06, 1982  Housing Options for the Elderly
Nov. 10, 1971  Plight of the Aged
Nov. 06, 1963  Nursing Homes and Medical Care
May 20, 1959  Housing for the Elderly
Sep. 04, 1957  Health of the Aged
Aug. 01, 1949  Older People
Mar. 29, 1938  The Job Problem for Older Workers
Civil Rights: Senior Citizens
Equal Employment Opportunity & Discrimination