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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The tightening labor market is opening up new opportunities for an overlooked cohort of American workers: those over age 50.

Why it matters: Ageism has long persisted within American companies, and studies have shown that workers over 50 often get turned away from jobs even if they've got the right qualifications. But the tide may be turning.

The big picture: As societies age, the older population will become increasingly key to global economic growth, both as workers and as consumers.

  • "Nearly all of the employment growth in the G7 is coming from older workers," says Andrew Scott, an economist at London Business School.
  • In the U.S., people over 50 make up $8 trillion of consumer demand, according to AARP.

What's happening: The collision of demographic and employment trends is pushing firms to adapt. "There's a lot of discrimination to overcome, but with a tight labor market and fewer younger workers, it's beginning to change," Scott says.

  • Employment in the U.S. has risen by 22 million since 1998 — and workers over 55 account for 90% of that surge, Quartz reports.
  • The growth is occurring at the high-skill and low-skill ends of the spectrum, Scott says.
  • For example, last year, McDonald's announced a partnership with AARP to hire 250,000 older workers.

Yes, but: While well-paid professionals may enjoy working later in life, many people at the lower end of the spectrum remain in the workforce because they cannot afford to retire, says Scott.

  • And the picture is not entirely rosy. Many older Americans perceive that they lost their jobs due to ageism, and more are taking legal action.
  • In the last year, top firms like Citibank, IBM and IKEA have fielded age-related lawsuits, per Forbes.

The bottom line: "We've ignored how aging is changing," Scott says. "People are aging better than in the past, on average, and that's a fantastic opportunity."

  • But "a lot of American businesses have not adjusted themselves to how to take advantage of this as opposed to looking at it as a negative," Carl Van Horn, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University, tells Axios.

Go deeper: When automation and aging collide

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Globetrotting climate envoy Kerry makes Biden team’s first visit to China

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

John Kerry became the first senior Biden administration official to touch down in China this week. He's also been the first to sit down with a string of world leaders.

Why it matters: Kerry may no longer be secretary of state, but you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise after a glance at his calendar. The unusual role could make Kerry a foreign policy force multiplier for President Biden, or potentially a source of mixed messages.

Chicago releases video of fatal police shooting of 13-year-old boy

A small memorial is seen on April 15 in Chicago where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot and killed by a police officer in March. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Chicago's independent police review board on Thursday released the body camera footage of an officer's fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo on March 29.

The big picture: Tension continues to rise nationwide in response to police misconduct and racism. Thursday's footage release comes days after officer Kim Potter fatally shot Daunte Wright in a traffic stop near Minneapolis, where the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is ongoing.