This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

September 12, 2001

Older and Wiser: The Resurgence of Older Workers

Not so long ago, workers over 45 were afraid to lose their jobs. They were too old, no longer young and energetic, so employers probably wouldn't hire them. By the time they reached the age of 60 or 65, they were expected to retire, to go out to pasture. Their lives were over.

Today the picture is much different. Older workers take partial retirement, still earning money from part-time work. Or they postpone retirement to work just a little longer. With the labor shortage, many jobs are available. Employers hire them because they need people and older folks seem to be able to do the job.

The labor market is shifting, though the transition has been delayed temporarily by the slowdown in the economy. The transition will move the employment market to actively seek older workers because of their maturity, wisdom, stability, and attitude toward being productive. As the economy heats up again, competition for good workers will intensify, with recruiters becoming increasingly aggressive.

Those recruiters will find it more and more difficult to locate young people to fill the open positions. There just won't be enough to fill all those jobs. Gradually, those recruiters will turn to older candidates. Older workers will find themselves in demand, with greater opportunities to make choices about where they will work. Some employers will direct their recruiters specifically to pursue applicants with more years of experience and more attractive attitudes about performance and longevity. By nature and values, those senior people will be more stable and thus will be sought- after by employers tired of the churning of their workforce.

The implications of people working significantly longer are fascinating. The expectation that leisure travel will increase dramatically must be modified. The demand on the healthcare system may also be deferred, since those senior citizens will be active mentally and physically. If they're still working, people eligible for Social Security may postpone their withdrawals.

Older workers will become a significant force in our economy. Their votes will be influential. Their coaching and mentoring of younger executives will balance enthusiasm with seasoning, producing stronger business results.

Comments from our readers:

An additional comment on your trend of older Americans staying in the workforce ...

Many baby boomers will HAVE to stay in the workforce, because they are ill-prepared for retirement - they have overextended, getting into consumer debt, and many have inadequate retirement savings. Social Security income will not be enough to maintain acceptable lifestyles; therefore, they will continue to work as long as possible.

Denise Sellers

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