Summary: This article briefly looks at the trend of the aging workforce—sensationalized or real? It also touches on some of the positive and negative impacts of that potential trend.
In the last decade or so, the media has begun talking about the so-called “graying” of the American workforce—the idea that people are working later in life and retiring later, if at all. Sometimes this is talked about in almost apocalyptic terms when it comes to productivity and benefits. First, this article touches on the actual extent to which that is true. Second, because a lot of coverage of this phenomenon seems to be from a “macro” (i.e., employer’s) perspective, this article briefly explores some of the implications of that trend for the workers’ themselves.
First of all, this is a real trend: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the share of the workforce age 75 or over will almost double by 2030. This is in large part driven by the Baby Boomer generation. However, in absolute terms this “problem” may be bit overblown by the media: those same projections say the share of the workforce in the 55-74 age bracket will actually decrease by 2030, and even the 75+ age bracket will be less than 12 percent of the workforce by 2030. In addition, while the average age of retirement is going up, it is doing so slowly, creeping up by approximately 3 years since the early 1990s. Life expectancy overall has been increasing, though not during the pandemic years; it remains to be seen if the upward trend in that resumes. Though not some immediate existential threat, this aging of the population likely will put increasing pressure on our social safety nets.