Inequality and economic insecurity have been rising for American workers — and the situation is only getting worse as they age into retirement, a new report finds.
On Wednesday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released a study that found the gap between wealthy and low income seniors is wider in the United States than it is in all but two of its 35 member nations — Mexico and Chile.
Although previous generations of retired Americans have seen rising levels of economic security, that trend appears to be coming to an end. Lower wages and the decline of pensions for middle-class workers are combining to create a class of older people with very thin financial cushions.
Over the past few decades, the U.S. has shifted from a reliance on unionized manufacturing jobs, which offered middle class salaries and comfortable pension plans, to low-paid service work and retirement plans to which employers usually don’t contribute.
But there’s also something more fundamental going on: Not enough Americans are working in the first place. The U.S. is one of the few countries where the percentage of prime working-age population who had jobs was lower in 2016 — at 79% — than it was in 2000, when it was 82%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.