Not that they wouldn't mind.
But the size of the Boomer generation virtually guaranteed a traffic jam in the job market for those succeeding cohorts. And then throw in global competition that caused businesses to wipe out retirement and health care benefits, a financial crisis and recession that decimated what savings they did have and you have a formula for reluctance to cede good jobs in an economy where age may be an employment advantage.
Among the rights won by American workers as the Boomers entered the workforce were two of particular significance; the laws protecting the entry of large numbers of women workers into professions previously the exclusive domain of men and the right of older workers to retire when they want to, not, in most jobs, at an arbitrary age. This both increased the number of Boomers who could and would work - and it ensured that they would stick around as long as they had the economic or emotional incentive to do so.
In an economy that prizes knowledge and experience (even if it doesnt always pay for it), age and maturity and reliability have become key competitive advantages both for the workers who have them and for the businesses that employ them. There is evidence to suggest that this has contributed to increases in productivity and efficiency. Those who have survived the ceaseless rounds of layoffs due to technology and outsourcing are savvy veterans of the workplace. Replacing their tacit knowledge of how to get things done is a nightmare that keeps many managers awake at night.
The downside of all this is that younger generations are not getting the job experience they need to keep the economy going. Income has been negatively affected, which in a consumer driven society, means capital formation, business growth and global competitiveness suffer, wiping out some of the gains provided by the older, experienced workers.
The financial implications for companies have been manifold - and often contradictory. There has been a concentration of wealth in fewer hands, which has weakened the overall economy in the US and Europe. But those with money have more to spend. The reduction or elimination of retirement benefits has boosted corporate profits in the short term but may create a large reservoir of older citizens even more dependent on government programs - and less able to spend on real estate, gasoline and the daily necessities.
This trend is not so much about Boomer choice but about the inevitable impact of the 'pig in the python' that generation has always represented. For businesses, surviving means preparation: for the transition to younger workers and the loss of knowledge that may occur; for the probable decline in purchasing power in both younger families and older; for delayed household formation that may keep the real estate market and associated industries underperforming expectations; and for tax policy as the Boomer generation - with its outsized numbers and their voting power - push for programs to benefit themselves.
All of this is happening against a backdrop of heightened global competition. Those who prepare will benefit greatly. Those who do not... JL
Matthew O'Brien reports in The Atlantic:
This is how a baby boom ends. Not with a bust, but with a lot of old workers.
For the first time ever, workers over-55 are set to make up a bigger share of the workforce than workers between 25 and 34 years old. It might not be long until over-55s outnumber the 25 to 34 crowd.
With the Great Recession forcing so many Boomers to postpone retirement, their numbers probably won't plateau anytime soon. In other words, more Boomers will hit their 55th birthdays, but fewer Boomers will trade in for a gold watch when they hit their 65th birthdays. This could go on until 2020 or so -- when the youngest Boomers will start approaching their golden years.
Here's a depressing thought. It might take that long for a self-sustaining recovery to take hold. Eventually Millennials will have to start buying houses and cars -- right? By then they should have the jobs to do so. But for now, the younger generation is mostly unemployed, underemployed, or back in school. That's why their share of the workforce actually slipped when the Great Recession hit.
In the long run, the economy will heal itself. In the long run, Millennials will get good jobs. In the long run, younger folks won't be all that different from older folks. They'll start families. Probably buy a house. But the long run is, well, a long way off. It'd be nice if we did something in the short run to help us get to that long run a bit quicker. Maybe even -- and I'm just spitballing here -- create some jobs at a time of mass unemployment.
A lost half decade is bad enough. Let's not repeat it.