Survey: Almost half of tech workers worry about losing their jobs because of ageism

More than 40 percent of tech workers worry about losing their jobs because of age, a new survey shows.

Jobs site Indeed also found that 18 percent of those who work in the tech industry worry “all the time” about losing their jobs because of ageism.

The release of the survey Thursday comes amid other news about diversity — or lack thereof — in tech workplaces. Often when we report about diversity issues, readers wonder about older workers. The Indeed survey offers insight into the age of the tech workforce: It’s young.

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Indeed concluded from surveying more than 1,000 respondents in September that the tech workforce is composed of about 46 percent millennials, with 36 percent of respondents saying the average employee age at their company is 31 to 35, and 17 percent saying that the average worker age at their company is 20 to 30.

What about Generation X and baby boomers? Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the average age of employees at their company is 36 to 40, while 26 percent of respondents said the workers at their companies are 40 and older.

“With the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that that 25 percent of workers should be 55 and over by 2019, it’s clear that these numbers don’t reflect the diversity of the population when it comes to age,” Raj Mukherjee, senior vice president of Product at Indeed, writes in a blog post about the survey.

There are lawsuits galore related to the issue. When USA Today counted last year, 90 age-discrimination lawsuits against top tech companies had been filed since 2012. Over the summer, a judge’s ruling revealed that nearly 300 people have signed on to a class-action age-discrimination lawsuit against Google. Other tech companies that have been accused of of age-based discrimination include Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and more.

The Indeed survey also showed that although some techies who are boomers are expanding their job searches outside Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, the San Jose and San Francisco metro areas are the Top 2 spots for job searches by tech workers of all ages. That paints a different picture than some anecdotal evidence about ageism forcing workers to look outside the tech center of the nation.

The survey also found that Seattle is No. 3 for job-searching millennials and Gen Xers, while Huntsville, Alabama is No. 3 for baby boomers. Mukherjee attributed that to the city being a space flight hub, with a strong presence by employers such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman there.

The online survey was conducted by a third-party research firm, and participants were selected based on their years of experience, with the average respondent working in the tech industry for 15 years and 9 months, Indeed said.


Photo: Tech workers outside a Google office building. (Bay Area News Group archives)


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  • Patriot

    get rid of H1B, and a lot of this goes away

    • Minority

      Been saying that for years…

    • Dave Simpson

      Much, and the abuse needs to end, indeed, but it’s not a complete resolution.

      • AQua

        It definitely will solve 75% of the problem.

  • DRJJ

    It’s nearly impossible to get a decent job over 55 today. Discrimination galore folks!
    Take a public knee re this widespread social injustice!

    • Dave Simpson

      Over-35 is tough. Over-55 is nearly impossible, or approaching “miraculous,” and there’s a biological milestone there that cannot be overlooked or concealed when companies look at health-care-related costs.

      • shawn parker

        ubereats delivery Is always looking for workers no discrimination

  • Crashed

    Age = 62, started coding sometime around ’75-’77. Still banging out software for paychecks + benefits. Have there been bumpy times? Yes: since 2005, a couple of multi-month stretches of unemployment and a couple of rather crappy gigs. Keep your skills up, focus on what you enjoy doing, if you lose a job, keep pitching. Spend less than you earn; keep your rainy day fund and your nest eggs healthy. I look forward to yielding my employment space to some of y’all young ‘nes in 3 years, 5 months or perhaps just a bit sooner … not that I’m counting 🙂

  • Dave

    Same with prostitutes. How about that

    • Jaime Toledo


    • Nuno

      Distractably funny, but very on point.

  • Walking Fool

    Ageism is HR’s best kept secret.

    It’s practiced in all the companies, but no company will talk about it.

  • Dave Simpson

    While we have another, amusing example provided here (thanks, Dave, below), I like the pro sports example, and I thin of the other elite (e.g., Olympic) athletes, too. The companies get them close to their peak, then discard them at calculated or merely institutional dump-off points to make room for fresh material, the way it seems in many places.

    Note it’s not just discrimination related to age and a sharp youth cult, one could even say, but related “cost-consciousness.”

  • Colin Sewell

    As well they should. And if they ever do lose their job, they should worry about getting another one at their age.

  • ChunkyMonkey

    So did the people they replaced…

  • rayo

    Perhaps the Mercury News needs my editorial assistance. Somewhat disjointed article.

    • Dave Simpson

      “This is a somewhat disjointed article,” you meant to say.

  • Xcalifornian

    I (we) can only hope that the millennial…or whatever the current descriptive is…generation is
    replaced even earlier by even younger…out of touch with reality…children ….than the current
    generation in the workforce. Then they will know what it feels like to be replaced.

    Replaced by the rest of the world…with a vaster workforce of children who grew up in a society
    that respects age, knowledge, and above all wisdom…whoi will put them in their places.

  • Steve Naidamast

    I don’t believe the author understands how old Baby Boomers are… We are in our 60s now and most of us have already either retired from IT or have been forced out due to our age…

    • Dave Simpson

      Not all Boomers are in their sixties. The head-enders, first two years (1946, 1947), are in their seventies. The tail-enders, last seven years (1958-1964), are still in their fifties.

    • BeeKaaay

      Only rich ones could afford to retire.

      And those “forced out by age” prove the article’s point.

  • Iconoclast59

    It would be excellent to see a huge award for the members of the class-action lawsuit. In fact, the award should be so painful for Google that it forces them to change their ways asap.

  • Been a regular tactic for 30 years now.

    This is NOT news.

    • Minority

      Try 100+ years

    • Candid One

      Since WWII.

  • beenthere

    Its a young person’s game for sure. Long hours of tedious “creativity” in cubical farms, or in a field of desks,. Great pay for a decade or two, if you’re lucky, then its the scrap heap. High tech is part scam like most things these days. Only those who rise up the ranks (maybe 1 in 10) can make a career of it, and that’s if they don’t burnout first. Best you can hope for is some minimal stock options in a company that makes it public, and that’s maybe a 1 in 50 lottery ticket.

    • Dave Simpson

      It’s made worse now by greater use of H1-Bs, for example.

    • Zeezladon

      I worked in hardware development in the 80’s and 90’s. The work environment was stressful then too, but probably more straight-forward as compared to now. One thing that was valued was experience. Not like now, where the ‘visionaries’ don’t think anyone over a certain age can contribute or innovate. It seems like hiring managers are looking for reasons NOT to hire someone, and the emphasis is moving towards what demographic requirement a candidate can fill. I’m kind of glad I’m out of it.

      • beenthere

        Totally agree. Spot on. I came to the conclusion near the end of my career that the industry likes the young-folks because their life experiences doesn’t yet provide with the ability to recognize con-artists and con-jobs when they are getting told that being university-grad “professionals” means they need to work 50-60+ hour weeks, in some the most high-cost-of-living regions of the country, doing what amounts to (for many high tech jobs) just really tedious highly detailed boring work. I saw many of them slowly start to tune-in into the reality that this “job” wasn’t what they had envisioned their working-life to be like – long hours, political ass-kissing, group-think, etc. But by then many were locked into the job, having bought house/car or started a family and leaving the abuse would’ve meant a big cut in salary and a big distribution to their life. Like a cult, once you’ve invested in the mindset of the “culture” its hard to admit you’ve made a bad choice (cognitive dissonance) and reverse course.

    • jakeleone

      If you love programming and software development, you don’t burn out. I have been at it for 3 decades, going through several programming languages in my career. But I agree, that yes companies that have jobs that no one really wants, often have long hours, low(er) pay, and a cramped environment. The weird thing (and I don’t understand this) when companies become successful, they don’t lose the cramped environment, no matter how much it disturbs the concentration of their workforce. It show management is (almost always) totally indifferent to productivity factors in their disposable workforce.

  • Dana Garcia

    Workers should be concerned about automation as well. Machines are getting smarter and lawsuits won’t solve that.


    Saw it first hand in Silicon Valley where very strong contributors were systematically weeded out if they were 45-50 + in age.

    Managers were encouraged to review/rank them as having “no potential” even though they were putting in long hours, very loyal and adding a ton of value overall. Age discrimination galore!

    • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

      I saw it first hand at Kraft Foods IT Department, in the Chicago suburbs as hundreds of Indians were brought in & they were trained & then sent back to India after a year or so.

  • Minority

    I fear something much more than agism, training H1B to do my job and being laid-off.

    These companies only care about cheap foreign labor to undermine US citizens and drive us into poverty

    • Candid One

      While your predicaments are concerning, much of the tech job market isn’t very susceptible to foreign talent competition. The toughest issues are the local costs of living versus salary levels. That’s a recruiting obstacle. It’s also much more likely for millennials to double-up, or more, to defray housing costs than for middle-aged job seekers with families. This is a longstanding problem in Silicon Valley. Forty years ago, groups of Stanford grad students were the regional competition for workers with families. Today, most of those grad student groups have been priced out of the rental market, which is why their university has greatly expanded its on-campus housing for students, staff, and faculty. This is only one symptom of the record income inequality that we all bemoan.

      • Minority

        When you live 4 generations to a single residence, cost isn’t a factor.

        • Candid One

          Most of the tech jobs aren’t held by such folks. What’s easy to see around SV is how a groups of young techies essentially “hot bunk”–or only go home to shower and change clothes; otherwise, their apts are empty most days. These are rentals that the working poor can’t afford.

          • Minority

            That is pure BS about them not being in tech, I see it daily in my neighborhood.

      • jakeleone

        Tech work is the most likely to be affected by foreign workers. Math is universal and spans language and culture. It takes about 2 years to learn enough to get into many tech jobs. It is only because of job competition and high costs of living that companies tend to require Masters Degrees for American citizens at SV jobs. That high cost drives salaries hire and managers “can’t justify a person without a Master’s being paid 6 figures” (actual quote from a hiring manager at Netflix).

    • Sal Donovan

      You are absolutely correct about the H1B. Gates, Zuckerburg and other have gone to DC to plead for higher numbers of H1B’s. They refuse to acknowledge that American kids are involved in the STEM programs. Many of the H1B’s are running the security platforms for corporations at half the salary an American would receive. And they don’t do a very good job.

      • y_p_w

        The big American-based tech companies aren’t hiring huge numbers of H1Bs. If you look at the numbers, the numbers are taken by an extremely high proportion of “consulting companies” that farm out contractors. I remember when I was looking for a job, a lot of these companies were almost desperate to get me to allow them to represent me. I suspect that a lot of them want to at least give the impression that they’re using US citizens and permanent residents.

        • Sal Donovan

          Body shops, as they call them, bring in a large number of H1B’s and B1’s and house them under 50 people at a time to stay under the radar. This is big business and the numbers coming into the country have been lobbied to increase this number. Gates and Zuckerburg have run the forefront of this issue to increase the numbers claiming there just isn’t enough qualified labor coming out of the colleges in the STEM programs. Americans in this field are forced to sign non-disclosure contracts to train these H1B’s to replace them and they are to remain silent or lose their severance pay and medical coverage from the start. If they remain quiet, they are covered anywhere from 6months to a year. You can believe what you want, but this is a big issue and we can see the influx under our nose in the Bay Area.

  • rayo

    The difficult part of the discussion is that, if you are in a cutting edge, high tech world, you really do go out of date.

    Rack up your 401k. Invest the bulk of your earnings wisely and conservatively.

    You star will shine very bright, but only briefly.

    • jakeleone

      At 53 I have never been a better or more creative developer. This problem is more of a hysteria. Old people don’t lose intelligence, humor, or creativity. But employers often want more, they want a 24×7 worker. They can get the equivalent with several cheaper employees replacing one expensive one, and our (US) government allows it thanks to campaign bribe money.

  • hollykick

    Actually Uber is the worst – I used be an engineer in Uber and I saw my manager (who is now a director) push me out because of my age , he started talking about being available even in the night at 11 etc, when i said its not possible he forced me to quit. So this is true and more if you join new in a company like Uber.

  • Jan David Narkiewicz

    I get phone screened by anyone under 30, I have chance of an interview. I get interviewed by someone over 40, I get an interview 90% of the time. There are plenty of jobs. So keep your skill up to date. I’d be worried if there were fewer jobs in the valley b/c you can get around ageism pretty easily.

  • Bhairitu

    Yup, experience isn’t valued anymore not even among academic institutions. College grads are mostly trained by college profs who have never set foot in an actual tech workplace and teach only theory thus cheating their students. Many SV innovators did not have tech degrees if even a college degree at all.

    And then tech companies want their employees (or is it “serfs”) to spend a part of their day doing a horrible commute to reach their tech “castle”. Whatever happened to the idea of “satellite campuses” close to areas where the workers live? We had them at the company I worked at in the 1990s and they made total sense.

    I still get inquiries from HR at companies looking for “senior programmers” (or the misused and misunderstood term “engineer”) and I have to ask back “just how senior?”

  • Moderate

    Older people are “too expensive”, especially compared to the H-1B staff and H-1B contractors. It seems many companies are happy to have sub-par quality products if it is cheap enough to build. Just look at Facebook – terribly buggy but they retain their customers (advertisers).

  • Moderate

    Older people are “too expensive”, especially compared to the H-1B staff and H-1B contractors. It seems many companies are happy to have sub-par quality products if it is cheap enough to build. Just look at Facebook – terribly buggy but they retain their customers (advertisers).