Published on: April 8, 2010Now available on iTunes…
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I love it when it all comes together. Especially when the end result is good news, which we all can use about now.
To begin with, there was a fascinating story on Salon.com about how changing demographics mean that there are going to be a plethora of jobs available by 2018. That may not be too encouraging if you are among the folks who have lost their jobs during the past 18 months, or if you are a Democrat looking to get re-elected. But it means that, as the Rolling Stones once sang, time really is on our side.
According to Salon, here are the statistics to make even the most hardened heart soften a bit:
• “By 2018, the Census Bureau projects that there will be roughly 21.8 million more adults in the U.S. than in 2008.”
• “The huge baby boom generation will continue to enter typical retirement age and live longer, while those reaching adulthood will come from the much smaller "baby bust" generation. That means that 95 percent of the net increase in population will be over 55, and more than half will be over 65.”
• “Only about 1 million adults age 18-54 will be added to the total of those normally expected to be in the workforce.”
• “Of the 21.8 million additional adults, just 9.1 million are likely to be in the workforce, assuming current labor force participation rates.”
• “Meanwhile, once the jobs recession is over, the total number of additional jobs in the nation is expected to increase by over 15 million by 2018, which would leave a potential gap of 6 million unfilled jobs.”
• “Nearly half of these jobs will be in the social sectors: health care and social assistance, educational services, nonprofits, the performing arts, museums, libraries, and government. If all 6 million potential jobs are left unfilled, the loss in potential output could total nearly $3 trillion over a five-year period.”
In other words, if we want to work, we’ll be able to work. There will be plenty of jobs out there...and for aging baby boomers who think it might be rewarding and interesting to teach, or work for a museum, or even enter public service, there will be opportunities. And get this - they won’t be able to turn us down, because they’ll be desperate for warm bodies!
There will, of course, be changes to be made to the workplace. Employers are going to have to look past graying hair and adapt the workplace to the specific needs and requirements of this aging population. They’ll have to make us feel like we have some skin in the game - albeit sagging skin - and they’ll have to allow us the opportunity to make tangible contributions, because we come to the party with the advantages of both years and mileage. This will be harder for some than for others. But if they want dedicated and enthusiastic employees, they’ll have to adjust.
There have been plenty of surveys out there that suggest we baby boomers will be looking for new challenges, or “encore careers,” and that we won’t be as focused as our parents on retiring or moving off to Florida where we can ripen and rot. (Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. But you get my point.)
Personally, I’ve never understood the allure of retirement. But then again, maybe that’s because I’m having so much fun writing and traveling and speaking and eating and drinking that I can’t image what the hell I would do for an encore.
The other piece that made me feel hopeful this week was a column by the thoughtful and erudite David Brooks of the New York Times, who wrote this week that he believes that “the U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival, built on its historic strengths. The U.S. has always been good at disruptive change. It’s always excelled at decentralized community-building. It’s always had that moral materialism that creates meaning-rich products. Surely a country with this much going for it is not going to wait around passively and let a rotten political culture drag it down.”
Based on projections that despite the economic problems of the moment, the global population is inevitably going to become more affluent, Brooks argues that “As the world gets richer, demand will rise for the sorts of products Americans are great at providing — emotional experiences. Educated Americans grow up in a culture of moral materialism; they have their sensibilities honed by complicated shows like ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire’ and ‘Mad Men,’ and they go on to create companies like Apple, with identities coated in moral and psychological meaning, which affluent consumers crave.”
In other words, even if it isn’t all good at the moment, the stage is set for an economic revival, a cultural renaissance, a revival of the spirit. And the really good news is that no matter how much noise is made by the wingnuts at either end of the political spectrum, no matter how much whining and gnashing of teeth takes place, it seems very likely that American exceptionalism will survive...if we continually work at it, if we refuse to allow the noise to drown out optimism, entrepreneurialism and innovation.
Sounds like a pretty good encore to me. As long as we survive the main event.
For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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