Mature Workforce Stays in Labor Longer

By Assemblyman Will Barclay

It used to be that when people retired, most stayed retired. Nowadays, statistics show, with the health of Americans improving and people living longer, retirees often find part-time work, move on to another career or volunteer in former work places. Not only so some prefer to work, but the cost of living is higher than it used to be and some work out of necessity.  That said, however, economists predict there will still be major labor gaps within the next few years due to retiring seniors.

The shift in workers over age 55 retiring and the growth rate in the U.S. workforce among workers aged 55-64 are unprecedented, according to a recent study done by the New York State Office for the Aging.  In 2000, 13 percent of the workforce was 55 and older, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and by 2015, this figure is expected to rise to 20 percent.

There are many concerns that with the babyboomers’ retirement, it will leave a gap of 10 million workers across the country.  In New York, those retirements are expected to especially affect education, health services, public administration, the non-profit sector and some manufacturing.  To help stem the loss of skilled labor, the state is exploring its options on developing new policies.

New York has been selected by the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices’ Policy Academy on Civic Engagement of Older Adults for 2008-09. New York is one of five states selected to participate. The academy is designed to help participating states improve health and lives of older adults by developing strategies for increasing the proportion of seniors who are employed or engaged in meaningful volunteer activities. Part of the outcome will be for New York to develop a state action plan on workforce issues and civic engagement as well as volunteerism for older adults.

In addition, the state Department of Civil Service has endeavored to make state government a role model in creating opportunities for older workers. The Department’s Boomerang initiative is an Internet-based employment referral database which will contain the names, experience, skills, and interests of retirees interested in employment with state agencies. In addition, Department of Civil Service is developing a guide to rehiring retirees for state agencies.

Thanks to modern medicine, we’re living longer and those changes affect the entire economic landscape. It is important that we address these changes and develop state policies that will benefit older and younger Americans together.

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