Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Boomer Problem

The February 18th issue of the Economist bears a cover reading “How to Manage an Ageing Workforce.” Within, the impending “problem” of Baby Boomer retirement is commented upon. Within, there’s lots talk about the negative effect boomer retirement may have on the world economy, on the void of expertise that will be left when boomers leave and there are insufficient numbers of skilled workers to take their place. The Economist’s solution? Keep the Boomers on. Work ‘em part time, maybe even pay ‘em less, but keep them around. You know what I say? GO HOME AND WATCH MATLOCK.

Christ almighty. Generation Y is in dire straights these days. Innumerable recent college graduates are unable to find sufficient and appropriate work, and much of this has to do with the fact that much of the world’s affluent, professional jobs are held by the Boomers. I’d think a logical and sane response to Boomer ageing and retirement would be to phase the Boomers out, and to train the younger generations to replace them, not to hold on to the Boomers longer. Are Generations X and Y incompetent? Not at all. Have they been given much of an opportunity to succeed? Certainly not the case with Generation Y. How about we face the fact that the Boomers will grow incompetent and die eventually, at which point we will no longer have any opportunity to keep them in the workforce, and they should be phased out. Meanwhile, they Y-ers, the Baby Boom Echo generation, should be phased in. It’s amazing how ignorantly the Boomers are steamrolling their own children to promote their own interests. It’s amazing how little agency youth have in this world, and how powerful the greybeards are. Oh, I’m sorry, am I being too dismissive of my elders? Is this offensive? Well, I’d be a lot more forgiving if it seemed like they cared about us at all…

Backing off a little bit, I'd like to point out that the Boomer Problem has an aspect that hasn't really recieved much discussion yet, and which my above comments touch upon. The boomers are such a large group, and with so many members who are educated, and so many who are working - thanks in large part to the women's movement - that they have quite literally clogged up the work force. They negotiated themselves into positions of power, and they have stayed there. There's been very little new blood in many industries over the past twenty years. And though there's been plenty of thought given to what will happen as they age with regards to health care, etc., there's been very little public discussion of the fact that by simply existing as they do, the Boomers are distorting the natural, organic flow of the workforce. The workforce has become top-heavy, with lots of senior - "expert" - employees, and very few young people being brought in and trained. And why have these discussions, respectively, happened and not happened? Because the health-care concerns and scares the boomers, while the exclusion of younger generations from opportunity does not. However, it should. If younger workers aren't effectively phased in, the economy will NOT be able to support the retirement apparatus that the Boomers are so set upon. Therefore, it should be in the interest of boomers to phase us youngins in. Now if someone would just tell them that...


At 6:39 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

i'm not sure how/if it resonates throughout all dimensions of local and federal government, but i know that when my father retires, his position will be eliminated completely, with the USFS "shifting interest" away from using architects in forestry altogether. i've heard academics saying the same thing about other departments of the federal government as well, such as the state dept, in differing discplines of course. bummer!

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

ooh, and you think we have it bad... japan has a national birth rate of 0.8, not to mention that their baby boomer generation is statistically larger than ours in the united states. and yah, people acknowledge the problem here but squat is suggested as a solution.

they even have a name for young people who are employment-challenged: NEET (No Education, Experience, Training). The title is ventured forth by the elderly in a hushed voice as they glance about, wary that one of those filthy vagrants might be in close proximity.

anyway, the whole prediciment can be a fun topic in mixed classrooms.


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