This news story made the rounds last week. It reports about a economic study showing that large numbers of older workers don’t crowd out younger workers.
It’s an AP story, and I’m not sure what you can tell about the different headlines written for it. The Washington Post link above is headlined: Will Surge of Older Workers take Jobs from Young?
National news outlets tended to frame the headline as a question, and we know from Betteridge’s law of headlines that the answer is no. Local news outlets tended to have headlines like: Research: Boomers won’t squeeze younger workers out of jobs. I guess the national news outlets like clickbait headlines more.
Although individual people relying upon anecdotal evidence believe that younger people aren’t getting jobs because old people won’t just retire already, the macroeconomic evidence indicates that’s not true.
The article reminded me of the argument in librarianship that comes up occasionally, mainly from younger and unemployed librarians who believe that older librarians refusing to retire is one of the reasons they can’t get jobs.
This is especially prevalent in periods of recession, when older librarians who might otherwise retire choose to keep working because they now can’t afford to do anything else.
The economic data suggests it doesn’t matter much because there aren’t a set number of jobs, at least over the long run. As one economist noted, when women entered the workforce, they didn’t displace men. The economy expanded.
The economy of libraries doesn’t expand that much, and obviously not to the degree the entire economy does. Libraries do create new types of jobs, but these tend to be alternatives when other librarians leave or retire.
Yes, maybe we need another emerging digital something-or-other librarian, but that will have to wait until Crusty the Cataloger retires and frees up some money.
Nevertheless, the young, unemployed librarian complaint isn’t a very compelling one, and as a librarian who plans to never ever retire unless I get rich, I can say a few reasons why.
First of all, the complaint tries to say that one group of people are superior and more deserving than another group of people. Normally, we’d call that bigotry of some kind: racism, sexism, whatever.
In this case, it’s generally ageism. The young are narcissistic, and think of themselves as more deserving of everything. Older people are just non-human objects who don’t have lives, loves, desires, or concerns of their own. Get them away! Yuck!
The reverse happens as well, and it’s not pretty. In the comments of some of the articles we get the inevitable comment that young people can’t get jobs because they’re lazy and entitled. Which might not be true, but….
Any young, unemployed librarian who claims the problem is that the oldsters won’t just die off already might not be lazy, but is definitely suffering from an unjustified sense of entitlement.
The harsh universal truth is that nobody owes you a job. You’re not entitled to one, much less the one you really want. Whatever you have been told to the contrary is wrong, and you were foolish for believing it.
To believe that some other human being should wreck their life plans so that you can get that job nobody owes you is extremely arrogant. Get over yourself.
The problem is that the entitled young and the crusty old who argue over this issue don’t really see the other group of people as people. They’re either obstacles or annoyances.
There must be plenty of young people who are as lazy and entitled as the bitter oldsters think they are, but I haven’t met any of them. The younger librarians I’ve met have generally been engaged with their work and eager to succeed.
And those old librarians who are just wasting space best saved for the young? Well, I’ve met plenty of old useless librarians in my day, but the key part of that description is “useless,” not old. Getting rid of the useless librarians would make space for experienced and competent librarians, who won’t necessarily be young at all.
The thing is, as long as one can remain mentally active, one can do a good job as a librarian, and the best older librarians still keep their minds active. This isn’t manual labor. It’s not a job that wears you down to nothing if you do it right.
The sad thing is that it does seem harder for young people these days to find jobs than it was a generation or two ago. If you make your money through the stock market, then you’ve been doing well the past few years. For everyone else, times have been harder and there are systemic economic issues that will make it increasingly harder for most people to find good jobs.
But it’s a lot easier to ignore that when you make some other group the enemy. It’s old people not retiring. It’s immigrants taking our jobs. It’s those Asians and their crazy high test scores keeping me out of college. It’s always someone else’s fault.