COVID-19 Index
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics

Encourage Older Workers to Stay Home

We should encourage older workers and workers with health problems to stay home, particularly if the job requires close human interaction. These workers are far more likely to end up in the hospital and thus require a lot of work. This work has to be supplied by health workers who are likely to be in short supply. Younger workers can do the work without overloading the hospitals and the health system. This will allow us to keep the economy going, while minimizing the deaths from COVID-19.

How can these older workers support themselves. There are several ways. First, older people who are approaching retirement often have savings. The median American household had a net worth of 97 thousand dollars this January. The median household in the 55 to 65 age category has a net worth of 187 thousand dollars. Median means that half have more and half have less. This suggests that over half of American households in the 55 to 65 age category could support themselves at the median American household income of 62 thousand dollars for about three years.

Of course, this net worth is not likely to be in a bank account. Using it to support yourself would often involve taking out a second mortgage on your home.

Second, not all people in this age category would need to stop working. Some could work from home. One of my relatives works for Google and after some adjustment he seems to be as productive as he was at the office. Older teachers could grade papers and perhaps answer students questions by phone. There maybe a fair number of jobs that can be readjusted to working at home.

Other jobs may require work outside the home, but do not require close human contact. The fields can be planted, and if the problem lasts long enough perhaps even harvested with minimal close contact. Long haul trucking may require little human contact, and even that could be minimized and made safe by reducing human contact in various ways.

Finally, the government could help our older workers to stay home by giving them their social security early. The workers could repay this early social security by working a little longer than they otherwise would. If you get six months off now, you could work six months past your 65th birthday. Of course this would be voluntary, if they wish to use savings, can work at home, or under other safe conditions they could retire at the normal time.

Teens and College Age Could Work

If removing all these older workers from the work force creates shortages perhaps teens and college students could help make up the slack. The dangers of this disease to them are much less. Many of our younger people seem to be intent on taking risks, let those risks be useful to them and the rest of us.

Students normally take off a summer vacation where they gain work experience and earn a minimum wage. Workers deserve some danger pay under these conditions which means that the student workers might earn several times as much now as they would normally earn from summer employment.

Furthermore, they might have opportunities to fill in far more responsible positions than the normal summer job. The crisis could serve as an opportunity to move their carriers ahead quickly.

One way to make up the losses in education from shutting down schools maybe to shorten summer vacations for one or more years once the crisis has passed.

We Need To Adjust and Be Flexible

Until the crisis is past life will be different. We need to adjust and be ready to change quickly, but I believe the resources and the workers are available to deal with this disease.
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