View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Older Women
in the Work Force
The number of women workers 45 years
of age and over has been increasing steadily. It rose to 8 million in 1957 and is expected to reach 10 million by 1965.
At present, more than a third of all women
workers are at least 45 years of age. These
·older women are a regular part of the
work force. They measure up very well to
the average of all women workers in productivity and in regularity of attendance.
Many of them rate above average, especially in such qualities as reliability, judgment, and sense of responsibility.
Yet when it comes to hiring a new worker,
some employers still hesitate to select a
woman over 45-or, perhaps, over 40 or
even 35 years of age.
The United States Department of Labor
has been studying the employment problems of older workers, both men and
women. It has surveyed their adjustment
to labor-market practices in seven urban
areas, their job performance, their status
under collective bargaining and under
private pension plans, and the counseling
and placement services provided for them.
It has found thatOlder women job seekers, in terms o J their
job experience, have the most difficult problems o J obtaining continuous employment.

This leaflet deals with some questions that
employers ask about older women workers
and offers a few suggestions for improving the situation.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Do Older Women
Make Good Workers?
Older workers, both men and women, have
many traits that employers value. Firms
that employ them rate older workers high
-the stability that comes with maturity.
-responsibility and loyalty to the iob and
to the employer.
-steady work habits. One employer likes
to have an older worker in every work
group. He calls their influence on the
group "unconscious supervision."
-concentration on the iob.
-regularity of attendance.
In addition, once they know the job, older workers usually need little supervision.
These are some of the comments given to Employment Service staff members making a survey of seven urban areas.

Older workers represent countless years of
rich and seasoned experience, judgment,
and stability, and constitute an immensely
valuable asset in the Nation's work force.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

M. CONVERY, Industrial Relations
Division, National Association of
Manufacturers, March 1957.


Why Do Older Women°
Want To Work?
Older women often want to work for a
special reason, such as to
-pay for major medical expenses of the
family, or some other major expense.
-send children to college.
-support a dependent relative.
-obtain social security protection.
-be a useful member of the national economy.

What About
Studies by the United States Department
of Labor show that older women are less
likely than other workers to be covered by
private retirement plans. This is true,
especially, in the case of
-professional workers,
-managerial employees,
-salespersons, and
-clerical workers.
Firms with pension plans that exclude workers
hired late in life often employ older women who
are outside the plan. Many smaller firms with
no retirement plans of their own also hire older
To the worker whose primary interest is in
adequate take-home pay, the job is more important than the pension. Especially if a married woman's husband is fully covered by social
security plus a company pension system, she
may prefer to receive her pay with as few deductions as possible.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Usually the firm with a pension plan of its
own can hire older workers in reasonable
numbers and include them in the plan
without excessive pension costs. This is
the conclusion reached by the United
States De_p artment of Labor as a result of
its recent studies.
Under the modern pension plans most popular
today, the age at which a worker enters the plan
makes little difference in ultimate costs to the

Benefits are scaled, as a rule, to length of
service, level of earnings, or both service
and earnings. As a result, the worker whose
period of service before retirement is short
generally receives a smaller benefit.
Costs of providing retirement benefits for
workers hired in youth and those hired at
an older age; there!ore, tend to .be equalized.
Some "package" plans provide not only retirement benefits but also group insurance. When
group insurance against sickness and accidents
not connected with employment covers all dependents and includes maternity benefits, older
workers can be covered without undue cost. The
reason for this is that this group has few dependents and low maternity rates.

What About
Social Security?
Many older women job seekers have an
unbroken work record. Others are returning to the work force after a period of
years, or have worked intermittently or
on a part-time basis. Some are looking for
a paid job for the first time.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


By hiring an older woman, therefore, an employer may make it possible for her to

-obtain protection under old-age and survivors insurance for herself and her dependents, if she has not previously
worked in covered employment.
-increase her protection, if she is already
insured; or at least keep her status
If she is the wife or widow of an insured
worker, she may be able to add substantially,
through her own employment, to the benefits
she will be entitled to receive. A married woman
worker is entitled at retirement to benefits
based either on her own account or on her husband's account, whichever gives the larger
benefits. She cannot draw both.
A part-time job, or even a temporary job, may
serve to improve the social security status of
an older woman, especially now that women
workers with sufficient coverage are eligible
for retirement (with a permanently reduced

benefit) at 62 years of age.

What Action
Can Employers Take?
Policy declarations adopted by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in
1957 include a statement on older workers, which applies to women as well as to
... many employers are becoming increasingly alert to the important contributions
which older workers are making and can
make to our Nation's productive effort.
There still remains, however, a sizable
reservoir of employable manpower among
... older workers which is not being fully
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


All employers are urged, therefore, to lend
their support to the fullest ext-ent possible
in providing satisfactory placement of . ..
older workers in suitable, self-sustaining
Many employers are carrying out this policy by
action along the following lines:

-in hiring new workers, they emphasize
ability to do the job, rather than an arbitrary age ceiling.
-in assigning work, they place older
workers where judgment and reliability
count more than strength and agility.
-in selecting workers for special training,
they include older workers, both women
an.d men, infair proportion.
As a community service, many employers participate in Earning Opportunities Forums.
These forums dramatize local shortages and
womanpower resources by bringing together
mature women job seekers, employment agencies, and employers. During 1956 and 1957,
forums were held in Baltimore, Boston, Washington (D. C.), Seattle, Philadelphia, St. Louis,
and other cities. A Women's Bureau leaflet is
sent on request to employers or community
agencies interested in planning a forum.

Where Can More Information
Be Obtained?
The Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor has issued a number of publications dealing with the employment of older
women, and other bureaus of the Department
have issued a number dealing with older workers, both men and women. Those listed here can
be purchased from the Superintendent of Docu
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


ments, Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C. Orders should be accompanied by
check or money order.

Bureau of Employment Security:
Counseling and Placement Services for Older Workers. No. E152. 1956. 50 cents.
Older Worker Adjustment to Labor Market Practices: .An Analysis of Experience in Seven Major
Labor Markets. No. R151. 1956. $1.25.
Pension Costs.

No. E150.


25 cents.

Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Employment and Economic Status of Older Men and
Women. Bull. No. 1213. 1957. 20 cents.
Job Performance and Age: A study in measurement.
Bull. No. 1203. 1956. 45 cents.
Older Workers Under Collective Bargaining. 1956.
Part I, Hiring, Retention, Job Termination. 25
cents. Part II, Health and Insurance Plans; Pension Plans. 25 cents.

Women's Bureau:
Employment of Older Women-an annotated bibliography on hiring practices, attitudes, work performance. 1957. 30 cents.
How To Conduct an Earning Opportunities Forum
in Your Community. Leaflet 25. 1956. 15 cents.
Memo on Job Finding for the Mature Woman. Leaflet 13. 1955. 5 cents.
"Older" Women as Office Workers.
25 cents.

Bull. 248.


Training Mature Women for Employment: The Story
of 23 Local Programs. Bull. 256. Reprinted 1956.
25 cents.
What a Community Can Do To Train Mature Women
for Jobs. Leaflet 22. 1955. 5 cents.

For sale by the
Superintendent of Documents. U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D. C.- Price 5 cents
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis