Difficult Adjustments: Older Workers and the Contemporary Labor Market

  • Maria Heidkamp
  • Carl Van HornEmail author


Older Americans are living and working longer and making up a growing segment of the workforce. Many have little or no retirement savings and need to work for financial reasons; others choose to work for social and personal reasons. Many older workers will end up in part-time employment, either by choice or involuntarily because they were unable to find a full-time job. This chapter examines data from a Rutgers University Heldrich Center for Workforce Development nationally representative Work Trends survey on the experiences of older, part-time workers, both voluntary and involuntary. It also reviews lessons learned from the New Start Career Network, a program to help older, long-term unemployed New Jersey job seekers, many of whom are facing challenges including age discrimination and the stigma of long-term unemployment, a contemporary job search process drastically different from the one they used the last time they looked for work, and limited access to reemployment supports from the public workforce system. They also face the challenge of the labor market’s growing reliance on alternative work arrangements, including temporary, contract, gig, freelance, and project-based assignments which, similar to the survey findings for involuntary part-time workers, often leave workers underemployed and without access to desired workplace benefits such as health care, sick leave, and retirement accounts. The chapter concludes with policy recommendations to address these shortcomings.


Age discrimination Transitioning to part-time work Survey study Voluntary part-time work Involuntary part-time work Desired benefits of part-time older workers Long-term unemployed older workers Personalized career services Career coaching 



The authors of this chapter acknowledge and thank the Philip and Tammy Murphy Family Foundation and New Jersey Resources for their support of the New Start Career Network. The authors also acknowledge and thank Heldrich Center researchers David Seith and Stephanie Holcomb for their work on the NSCN evaluation and Robb Sewell for his editorial assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

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