Employers are making it clear that anyone who has been out of the workforce for more than a few months can forget about a job, while “old people” need not apply. At the same time, companies are expanding investments and hiring abroad.
Many job listings go as far as to specifically state that those who have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time need not apply, according to various media reports. When confronted by the media, companies usually pull the ad for public relations reasons. But the underlying attitude remains—companies believe that those who have been unemployed for too long are damaged goods.
It is certainly not illegal for a company to require that applicants already have a job in order to apply, unless it somehow also violates statutory definition of discrimination based on race, age, or gender. Even then, proving a case of discrimination is too costly for an unemployed applicant to pursue.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that older workers are facing age discrimination in addition to the fact that their unemployment is held against them. Yahoo reports the following case. “Paula S., from Acworth, Georgia, who said she was ‘sixty-something,’ described two eye-opening experiences of blatant age discrimination … One twenty-something supervisor asked me if I had ever thought about coloring my hair … Another manager told his assistant with the door open when I showed up to complete an application and interview: ‘We can’t hire any more old people.’”
How old is old? Another job seeker who shared his experiences with Yahoo’s Down But Not Out feature had this to say: “I do believe that being 37 was a factor in being passed over for jobs,” he wrote. “T]echnology is a young man’s game. Potential employers thought I may be rusty with my skills … Trained to an expert level, but no one can afford to hire me.”
Why would companies hold someone’s unemployment or age against them? There are what seem to be valid reasons, but the real reason is offshoring. The American economy is shrinking because of globalization, meaning that employers do not need to hire even qualified, experienced workers because there are no longer the jobs in America for such workers. These jobs are now being created and filled abroad. GE is a case in point. The company has moved its X-ray research to China, where it hired 100 engineers and where it will invest $2 billion.