All of my friends in the new work-from-home economy say that coworkers with newly unskooled children to manage are “useless”. Employers who fire their least productive employees, therefore, in an age-neutral manner, may actually be firing an older-than-average population (and, coincidentally, saving a ton of money on employer-provided health care for both these older adults and their children!).
I’m wondering if the new “wear a mask 8 hours/day” policies will also winnow the older workers out of the U.S. labor force. Older people have reduced lung capacity and muscular strength compared to the young, so they are going to be more impaired by the masks. Already in retail stores I have noticed some older workers struggling and, in some cases, wearing the mask around their necks, even when interacting fairly closely with customers.
Finally, you have the actual risk of coronaplague. As workers get closer to the average age of a Covid-19-tagged death (82 in Massachusetts), they might not want to take the risk of coming into contact with a lot of co-workers, customers, etc.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (EEOC): “The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older.” (i.e., employers wouldn’t hire people over 40 without the threat of lawsuits and coercion by the government)
- “Lung Capacity and Aging” (American Lung Association): “Your lungs mature by the time you are about 20-25 years old. After about the age of 35, it is normal for your lung function to decline gradually as you age. This can make breathing slightly more difficult as you get older.”