Latest Public Policy & Aging Report forecasts possible US labor shortage

09/29/04

Demographic and workforce experts are predicting a high chance of a looming labor shortage, according to the latest issue of the Public Policy & Aging Report, the quarterly publication of the National Academy on an Aging Society.

This installment of PP&AR contains five articles that explore the possible myths, realities, and consequences associated with the shifting make-up of the U.S. labor force likely to be seen in the decades ahead. Will retirement of the baby boom generation represent a loss of needed workers and their skills and/or will its departure free up new opportunities for younger workers?

Steven Nyce and Sylvester Schieber of Watson Wyatt Worldwide suggest that the United States cannot expect productivity to rise sufficiently to fully offset declines in the size of the labor force. While employers may have some means to address likely labor force shortfalls, the authors see difficult choices ahead, especially those that may pit retirees against current workers.

On the other hand, Peter Cappelli of The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School argues that such concerns are overstated. He cites evidence for the anticipation of an increased labor supply, and provides examples from several European nations.

Ken Dychtwald, founder of the San Francisco-based research firm Age Wave, and Tamara Erickson and Bob Morrison of The Concours Group consulting firm focus their analysis on the effects on employers and managers. They see a need for both more flexible work and more flexible retirement, and they enumerate changes needed to ERISA, ADEA, and to the tax code.

Other authors, such as Laurie McCann of the AARP Litigation Foundation, discuss the issue from a sociological viewpoint. She explores the likelihood that a growing need for older workers will lessen the incidence of age discrimination in the American labor force and concludes that it may well not. Sara Rix of AARP writes about recent European experiences where generous retirement provisions-often easing workers in their fifties out of the labor force-are encountering rapidly aging populations and pension shortfalls. She highlights efforts by the European Union to encourage employment targets of 50% for workers aged 55-64, with only four of fifteen nations having attained this goal as of 2003.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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