OLDER WORKERS MOST AT RISK OF VIRUS LEAST LIKELY TO TELEWORK
By Carol Hymowitz
Older workers who are most at risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19 are the least likely group able to work from home.
Three- quarters of U.S. workers who are 65 or older—or about five million men and women—can’t telework, according to a new analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Although some of these older employees likely have been laid off or furloughed in recent days, many are continuing to work so they can collect paychecks that they and their families need. As a result, they may be risking their own and their families’ health.
While 36.2 percent of employees who are ages 35 to 44 and 31.4 percent who are ages 25 to 34 can telework, only 25.5 percent of those 65 and older have this option, the analysis found. The statistics aren’t surprising given the large number of older Americans who work in low-paid jobs in food service, hospitality, healthcare and other service businesses.
Policymakers can mitigate the risks of older employees being exposed to Covid-19 in the workplace by ensuring that those who must quit jobs or lose pay to protect themselves are eligible for unemployment under the federal government’s new $2.2 trillion coronavirus package. Older and other highly vulnerable workers also should be eligible for paid sick days, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Carol Hymowitz is an author, journalist and visiting fellow at the Stanford Center on Longevity.