For the very first time in history, the number of workers over age 55 will surpass the number of workers ages 25 to 34. Since 1990, the number of older workers has been increasing steadily, while the number of younger workers in that specific age cohort has been steadily declining.
It’s just a matter of demographics and health. As we described in our book, “Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People,” the workforce age wave could have predicted this situation. While the number of babies born between 1979 and 1999 had declined, we would only expect that dip to be seen in the workforce numbers. At the same time, we have seen advancing technologies in healthcare extending life expectancies and therefore the ages at which people would choose to retire.
Baby Boomers worldwide are feeling well and due to critically reduced nest eggs and home values, they are rationally choosing to keep working. They would rather stay in the workforce and postpone retirement than reduce their lifestyles by quitting work. Thus, more Boomers will celebrate their 55th birthdays at their worksites and choose to keep working, until their health makes that choice untenable. It would not surprise us, if many keep working well into their 70s and 80s.
Of course, that decision is having far-reaching negative consequences for Gen Xers who want to move up and positive consequences for some employers who will have the benefit of their expertise longer.
The problem for Millennials (Gen Yers) is that many are unemployed or under-employed with little prospect of that changing soon. In fact, we actually saw a decline in their share of the workforce when the Great Recession hit…