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Changing Demographics

The United States population is growing older. The nation’s workforce is reflecting these demographic changes. As a result, some employers are projecting labor shortages—thus necessitating the retention of current workers resulting in an increasing number of older adults in the workforce or risk losing many experienced and knowledgeable workers to retirement or other pursuits. Some older workers have chronic diseases and resulting impairments that employers need to consider in developing their workplace health programs. Persons aged 65 and older represent one of the highest U.S. labor force participation rates in the developed world. By 2018, nearly 24% of the total U.S. workforce will be age 55 or older compared to 18% in 2008.6,7 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the civilian labor force will increase by 12.8 million workers over the decade covering—2006-2016—reaching 164.2 million in 2016. Additional characteristics of the labor force between 2006-2016 include:

  • The number and percent of workers between ages 16 and 24 years will decline from 14.8% to 12.7%19
  • The number of workers ages 25-54 will increase by 2.4%, but their overall share of the labor force will decline from 68.4% to 64.6%19
  • The number of workers 55 and older is projected to grow by 46.7% or 5.5 times the rate of growth in the overall labor force 19

A competitive labor market will exist in the future due to fewer younger workers entering the workforce to replace retirees as well as a growing number of older workers who will want to remain in the workforce due to personal or financial reasons. Each group will seek employers who offer an attractive benefits package, development opportunities, and a high quality environment in which to work posing challenges for employers to effectively recruit and retain employees.

A comprehensive workplace health program is one option for employers to consider in creating an attractive benefits package for current and prospective employees. Regardless of the age of a particular workforce, employers whose programs are aimed at preventing disease and injury can help maintain the health of workers throughout their working lifetime.

Tools and Resources

  • The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) and the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health (SOEH) with support and contributions from the CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), the U.S. Veteran’s Administration (VA), AARP, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the Work and Health Research Center (WHRC) at the University of Maryland School of Nursing hosted a conference in 2009 titled, “Healthy Aging for a Sustainable Workforce [PDF - 1.2Mb].” The conference report generated several recommendations for programs and policies to address the health and safety needs of older workers
  • AARP has developed a Workforce Assessment Tool (WAT) that helps organizations assess their workforce needs and policies and practices for workers 50 years of age or older. The WAT has several sections related to health including questions on wellness programs, employee benefits, work environment, workplace accommodations and flexible work schedules
 

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