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Retiring unemployed and forgotten
by Thanos Kalamidas
2013-10-18 11:30:29
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Two higher degrees, accompanied with all the bonus elements from two very prestigious internationally-recognized universities, international work experience and a prestigious and awarded career in two different fields, but who reads that when a sentence in the first paragraph eliminates it all? Age: Over fifty.

This is before even having the interview because then you have to add chronic diabetes that often affects your life, such as heart problems, as well as just getting physically older.

If you are lucky, somebody out of sympathy or just desperate for your qualities might – after second or third thoughts – answer your application. However, employing you is a totally different case since stereotypes find their way, as well.

The over-50 unemployed club

Last week a woman in her early-fifties confronted the French president François Hollande, telling him: “I’ve been looking for a job for a year-and-a-half; I have to go back to my parent’s home because I can’t find work… What are you going to do for people like me?”

The woman is among the 3,538,500 job seekers in France and part of the over-50 “unemployed club”, who account for more than 30% of the long-term unemployed in France. The confrontation left President Hollande shaken, but not because of the timing or the place but because he had no answers for her.

While everybody is talking about the rise of unemployment among the youth, there is another group that constantly rises in numbers and its problems are much bigger, and without any prejudice to the young, much more serious.

Unemployment in your fifties and sixties has something twistingly lethal about it because there is no job market for them or they are over-qualified for any job market. As a consequence, most of them follow the path of the long-term unemployment all the way to a poor retirement.

Long-term side-effects

By the end of 2012, youth unemployment in Europe had reached 23.2%, with Greece’s 57.9% being the highest and Spain just behind with 55.2%. However, EU-wide unemployment among the over-fifty year-olds during the same period had reached a dramatic 54.9%.

Oddly in this case, industrial countries mainly in the north, such as the Netherlands, UK, France, Italy and Denmark, are seeing terrifying percentages. The tragedy is that up to 40% will fall into long-term unemployment. Unfortunately, long-term unemployment at this age has a lot of side-effects, both physical and psychological.

Focusing on youth unemployment in recent years – mainly due to the recession and political PR – we seem to forget unemployment among the over-50s. We also forget that this is a group affected more than any other, including negative stereotypes in the work-fields.

Negative wok stereotypes, especially during an international economic crisis, and competing with younger, more hip and less demanding job applicants is nightmarish. Even in the case of returning to work after a year or more, employment after unemployment is much harder for the over-fifties.

Furthermore, the majority of the unemployed aged 50-64 in the EU have been jobless for more than a year, compared to about 45% of the unemployed in the ‘core’ 25-49 age group, and are heading for long-term unemployment.

Over-educated and neglected

While unemployment among men over 50 in most EU countries is higher, oddly it seems in the core of the Union women over 50 are in a better position, even though the numbers are still very high. For example, unemployed men over fifty in the UK reached 47%, but women are down to 36%. In Germany, the percentages are respectfully 64% and 61% and 60% and 55% in France.

One more important element is that while long-term unemployment for those aged over 50 in the past was in relation to education and skills. Today, those unemployed with higher education or specialized skills are very close to the lower education groups, who still face higher unemployment.

This can be seen in the crisis-hit south of Europe, where a person with a rich working experience and good education could be characterised as over-educated for the job and face neglect from the job seeking field.

Before 2011 there were, on average, six unemployed for each vacancy, but today there are 25-plus for every vacancy. In the majority of those vacancies, age is a major factor.

The sectors of the economy that have been hit more over the last five years are the economic, public and services sectors, which leave very few opportunities for somebody over 50.

Undignified destiny

Getting closer to retirement age fills people with insecurities and can trigger an identity crisis, life review issues, age stereotypes and often loneliness or neglect. Economic insecurities as serious as unemployment can have far more serious problems, which is where European states have failed them.

When you are young, full of dreams and hopes, unemployment can be a serious hold back, but being over fifty and unemployed, when your dreams are left to the next generation and your hopes are limited to a quiet and dignify retirement, unemployment cannot be part of it.

When the states try for various reasons – including improved PR spinning – to do something about youth unemployment they leave older unemployed citizens to an undignified destiny ignoring that their needs might be greater than a young person’s.

It looks as though there is a gap in the state’s and society’s care for these people internationally. While the state, the society and even the media care for the youth, the productive mature jobseekers and the retired are ignored.

They abandon people between 50 and 64, foolishly believing that they are in the period of their lives when they can enjoy the glories of a long working life, ignoring the fact that age is their worst enemy even in the work field. It is a period when people need more support, not only financially but also physically and mentally.

So, what are they going to do with people like us?


First published in the GB Times

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Leah Sellers2013-10-18 23:25:23
Oh, Brother Thanos, you Feel so close to my Soul at times, Sir. Thank you for these very adroitly written and laid out reality-revelations.

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