Finding work when you are "old"

"old" worker

Unemployed: there are now less unemployed youngsters than old people

This was the title of a post from a few weeks back in Pietro Ichino’s newsletter that I regularly read.  

Finally ISTAT [Italy’s national institute of statistics] is giving us a hand, I thought.

Stats need to be interpreted and even when we speak of youth unemployment we could start to discount people aged between 15 and 24… But if the figures are clear – as they are for elderly people who are unemployed – even better.

What do I mean by that? Nowadays, in 2017, we can see that there is significant unemployment amongst the elderly and this trend is bound to get even worse since life expectancy is increasing and continues to rise and as a result of retirement age going up.

I can see two extreme scenarios:

If the general status quo does not change - in terms of culture, laws, modus operandi, corporate strategies, etc. – the number of old unemployed people (over 55, over 50, over 45 in certain sectors) in Italy is bound to increase. I say this on the basis of a series of considerations based on my own experience:

  • Multinational companies establish constraints in terms of the age of candidates, even if the law forbids this and they claim they’re in favour of equal opportunities.
  • People who lose their jobs and leave big companies or multinationals where they had important positions find it hard to accept that the labour market might not roll out the red carpet for them. They will therefore only consider positions managed by major Head Hunters / Executive Search Consultants. The problem is that major HH and not so major HH are sceptical about people aged 40 and over…
  • So these people either get cast adrift – and that would be a shame – or they have to face up to the reality of labour market dynamics and accept:
    • that they’ve either had the career or will no longer have the career they had envisaged when they were young;
    • that they can find work in companies that not everyone knows and that these might be the best places to look;
    • the Italian fixation with working your way into top management is slowly crumbling: if you’ve got there great but if you haven’t forget about it and just think about the money.  
  • People outside the labour market struggle to get back in because of simple reasons like not knowing how to look for jobs. They weren’t taught this at school, they haven’t changed jobs lots of times and perhaps they haven’t done so recently. They know there are ads and even temping agencies or – people with a high quality career – know that Head Hunters exist. The problem is that this is not the way to find a job, especially if you’ve been out of the labour market for some while.
  • And what about training? Do any of you deal directly - i.e. by paying out of your own pocket – with improving your foreign language skills or learning about a subject and getting a certification in a specific methodology? You probably expect the companies you work for to do this, if it’s important for them … 
  • And what about a degree? Let’s not tell our kids that degrees are not important, please! Today if you want to get back into the labour market and you don’t have a degree it might not be enough to have a lot of experience!
  • ...

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have what I call "lifelong learning & working": a mix of education and professional experience and then more education and work experience …

The world is changing and life expectancy is increasing. The things you studied when you were 20 years of age will not be as useful for your professional career as they used to be (in the '70s and '80s).  

So people study for 5 years and work 10 or 15 years. They might then study for 5 years and work another 10-15 years….

It’s just an idea but it makes sense.

This is something that will need to be addressed by the 4 market players: companies, institutions, workers and trade unions.

Today I see that individual citizens are left to themselves to make significant job changes that even my own generation might need to face after a standard career path.

So I am happy that ISTAT’s data and Pietro Ichino’s blog help us to reflect on this issue, which is as important as youth unemployment, believe me!

About the author
Cristina Gianotti
For more than fifteen years Cristina Gianotti has been working in Coaching - Career, Executive and Business Coaching – supporting managers, professionals and entrepreneurs that are interested in investing in themselves and their own professional development. She comes from a management consulting, management and entrepreneurial background. In 2016 she published her fisrt book "E' facile cambiare lavoro se sai come fare" (It is easy to change job if knowing how) with bookabook. In 2018 the second one "Connecting Dots: il networking questo sconosciuto" (Connetting dots: the unknow professional networking").

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