Employees averaging over 12 jobs in their careers

Older workers are having trouble changing job - Newsreel
In the movie Second Act Jennifer Lopez had to fake her credentials to make a career change. | Photo: Movie promotion picture from the movie Second Act.

Workers are averaging more than 12 jobs between the ages of 18 and 56 and the length of time spent in each one has fallen eight percent in a decade.

A new OECD report, titled Promoting Better Career Choices for Longer Working Lives says the workforce has transitioned significantly from the “job for life” model of previous generations.

International data suggested the average time in a job fell by nine months between 2013 and 2023 and baby boomers held an average of 12.7 jobs in their key working years.

“Career changes are also becoming more frequent, with some employer survey estimates suggesting that one in two workers make a complete career change (occupational change) during their lifetime,” the report said.

“The career landscape of the 21st century has witnessed a notable departure from traditional career paradigms, giving way to more fluid and diversified trajectories.”

Despite the changes, the research showed that older workers were more likely to struggle with transitioning their career.

“Job mobility falls rapidly with age from around 17 percent of workers under the age of 30 changing jobs annually to around seven percent by age 45,” the study concluded.

“On average across OECD countries with available data over the period 2010-20, workers aged 55-64 who voluntarily changed jobs experienced wage growth of 3.5 percent.

“In contrast, older workers aged 55-64 who were forced to change job experienced an average decline in wages of just over 13 percent over the period.”

The researchers said governments and employers would need to work harder to aid the transition of older workers. This was particularly important as more people stayed in the workforce for longer.

“By 2050, it is projected that one in six workers will be over the age of 65 on average across OECD countries,” the report said.

“Therefore, improving the career choices of mid-career and older workers is vital for a well-functioning labour market. There is a positive correlation between mid-career mobility and labour market attachment later in life on average across OECD countries for which there are available data.

“The likelihood of a 60-year-old still being employed is about 62 percent if they experienced a job change aged 45-54. In contrast the likelihood that a 60-year-old is still employed who did not experience a mid-career job change is about 54 percent.”

The report said there remained many barriers to voluntary career changes for older workers. These included age-discrimination, skills gaps, costs of geographic mobility, and institutional policies.

Workers 45 to 64 already constituted 41 percent of the OECD workforce in 2022, up from 29 percent in 1990.

Older workers were 14 percent more likely to work in routine manual occupations than younger workers. This made them more vulnerable to job loss from automation. Workers aged 55-64 were 12 percent more likely to be in long-term unemployment than their colleagues aged 25-54.

“The evidence suggests that many older workers are trapped in bad jobs which can have long lasting consequences on their well-being, health and overall career prospects,” the report said.

“Career mobility is an important lever for obtaining more suitable employment and facilitating longer working lives by reallocating workers from low quality to more productive and healthy jobs.”

The full report is on the OECD website.