Bloomberg highlighted an interesting chart stating that for the first time ever, working seniors outnumber teens in the labor force. Currently 6.6 million people over the age of 65 are working or are looking for work compared to 5.9 million 16 to 19-year-olds. Back in 1948, the numbers were only 2.9 million people over age 65 and 4.4 million teens, respectively.
This chart has enormous implications for the American workforce as people live longer and longer. Let’s go into the reasons why there’s been a decline in teenage workers and such a rapid increase in older workers shall we?
1) Longer Lifespan. A longer life ironically means more years you need to take care of yourself financially. Can you imagine if you lived until age 1,000 how many years you’d have to work to save money? Maybe a couple hundred years!
2) Information Dissemination. The Internet has allowed people to find more jobs more efficiently. There’s always been a problem with matching skill sets with company needs. As a result, seniors have found jobs where they would otherwise have never had the opportunity.
3) Boredom. Let’s face it, playing golf all day and lounging by the beach gets boring after a certain amount of time. Retirement really isn’t what it’s cut out to be, otherwise you’d see a DECLINE in the number of 65 and older workers instead of a rapid increase.
4) Quality Of Worker. If you are an employer, wouldn’t you rather hire a clear-headed person with 40 years of experience than someone with practically none? The choice is easy and teenagers are unfortunately being crowded out.
5) Too Many Distractions. It must be exciting growing up as a teenager nowadays. The amount of gadgetry and things to distract are astounding! There seems to be the idea that anybody can get rich quick online, so nobody wants to make just $8 an hour bagging groceries anymore. It is interesting to see the media perpetuate the stereotype that Gen Y is a bunch of lazy, I want it now folks. Maybe the data serves as evidence.
KEY QUESTION: Is it fair that younger workers are being crowded out by older workers?
It’s clear there is a US unemployment issue and much of the world frankly. As more seniors re-enter or stay longer in the work force, the question becomes is this right for those who are just starting off? On the one hand, teenagers will argue that senior people have had their chance in the work force already. 40 years is a long enough time to be working, and if they are taking entry level jobs traditionally allocated to teenagers, that’s just wrong.
On the other hand, senior folks can argue that if their kids actually took care of them in their old age, they wouldn’t have to work! But then, the counter argument would be that they should have found ways to take care of themselves after 40 years of work. So it seems as if everything is rational from a financial point of view. Both sides are at “fault.”
Hence, the real reason for the rapid increase in older workers and a commensurate decline in younger workers is simply desire. Teenagers have less desire to work because the world owes them something, and older workers have a greater desire to work because they are bored out of their minds! Hence, the crossover is actually a market driven phenomena that is completely rational.
Readers, what are your thoughts about the crossover?
Why do you think there’s been a surge in older workers and a decline in younger workers over the past 20 years?
Should older workers stop working and give younger workers a chance since they had theirs already?
Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”
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