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Why Employers Need to Focus on the Issue of Age Equity Now

Fast-developing demographic and social trends suggest that the truest test of employers’ ability to operate legally under discrimination laws may be yet to come. These trends include the aging of the workforce, a projected labor shortage, and the desire of baby boomers to work longer than their predecessors, and on different terms. These trends are also reflected in the emer- gence of new legal issues related to age dis- crimination law that employers need to take into account in recruiting, job assignments, and employee benefits policies.

The Aging Workforce In 1982, the median age of the labor force was 34.6, compared to the 40-plus of today. Increasingly, the U.S. labor pool will consist of people who are covered by the ADEA. The highest growth rate in the next decade will be among workers between the ages of 55 and 64, an age group living longer and healthier, and thus able to work longer than its predecessors.

The Coming Labor Shortage The post-baby boom generations are smaller than the wave of population born from 1946 to1964. The U.S. Department of Labor has pre- dicted that starting around 2010, the growth in

the labor force will slow to .4 percent a year, compared to 1.6 percent per year between 1950 and 2000. While experts differ on the exact dimensions and nature of the potential short- age, most agree that there will be more jobs than people to fill them. Employers who want to make up for this gap to maintain productivi- ty must invest in retaining and attracting experienced workers who are current in their field and loyal to their employer.

Boomers Want to Work Longer AARP research shows that nearly 80 percent of baby boomers expect and want to work in retirement. The top two reasons for remaining in the workforce are money and health insur- ance. Some envision changing careers or start- ing a small business. The numbers probably understate the true picture. As more people near retirement age and realize the inadequacy of their financial preparedness, more are likely to choose continued employment.

Boomers Want Flexible Working Conditions Experienced workers bring talent, perspective and loyalty to their current job or to a new employer. But to attract and keep these employees, employers must listen to and act on another message: boomers want what


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