Gray Power: Aging work force

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that starting around 2010, the growth of the labor force will slow to 0.4 percent a year, compared to 1.6 percent a year between 1950 and 2000.

Fast-developing demographic and social trends suggest the truest test of employers&8217; ability to operate legally under discrimination law lies ahead.

These trends include the aging workforce, a projected shortage and the desire of baby boomers to work longer than their predecessors. Employers will be forced into re-evaluating their recruiting, job assignments and employee benefits.

Employers who want to make up for the labor force gap must invest in retaining and attracting experienced workers who are current in their field and loyal to the employer.

In 1982, the median age of the labor force was 34.6 years, compared to 40-plus today. The highest growth rate in the next decade will be among workers between the ages of 55 and 64.

AARP research shows 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 insurance.

Experienced workers bring talent, perspective and loyalty to their current or to a new employer. But to attract and keep these employees, employers must listen to and act on this matter.

Boomers will require more flexibility and autonomy, work schedules that allow for part-time or other flexible schedules and a better work balance.

Boomers will demand training, benefits and respect of their colleagues and employers.

Social and economic trends and technology have brought workplace changes that have repercussions in age discrimination law.

The most savvy employers are approaching the future not only by complying with the letter of age discrimination law, but also by instituting policies and procedures designed to meet the needs of this new workforce generation.

Dr. Marvin Copes is an Education/Community Service Volunteer for AARP