A Force for Productivity: The Aging Workforce
As the enormous population bubble known as the “Baby Boomers” (generally defined as those born between 1946 and 1964) moves through the ranks of the employed, one thing has become clear: they’re not going anywhere any time soon.
Healthier senior years, a desire for certain health insurance benefits, and well-founded concerns about depleted retirement savings are combining to keep many boomers active in the work force long past the age of their planned retirement.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, U.S. workers 55 and over numbered about 15 million in 1988. In 2008, the count increased to nearly 28 million and is expected to grow to nearly 40 million by 2018. At the same time, 55+ workers are projected to make up nearly 25% of the workforce, up from 18.1% in 2008.
With numbers like these, employers should give serious consideration to the aging of their employees now as well as the workforce that will be available to them in the future, and plan accordingly — especially when it comes to workplace safety and insurance-related costs.
Debunking the myths
With so many boomers in the workforce, they’re putting to rest many of the stereotypes and negative perceptions about older workers:
- Increased training time
- Higher costs for healthcare and other benefits
- Lower productivity due to reduced physical stamina
In fact, AARP research shows that older employees possess the top qualities companies consider most desirable in employees of any age — from loyalty and dedication to a commitment to doing quality work.
So, how can your company more fully utilize its older workers? According to AARP, top approaches include:
- Benefit options targeted to boomers
- Flexible or part-time work arrangements
- Educating managers about ways to utilize older employees
- Skills training
In addition, smart safety strategies help protect workers of all ages. By implementing best practices such as workstation ergonomics, fundamental slip and fall reduction, and sufficient lighting, businesses can take advantage of the years of experience and commitment older workers bring to the workplace.
The Aging Workforce: Impact on Workers’ Compensation
Does the age of your workforce affect your workers’ compensation costs? A 2012 study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) addressed the potential impact of baby boomers on workers’ compensation loss costs. The analysis looked at differences in the components of loss costs—frequency (injury rates per worker) and severity—across age groups.
Here are some key findings of the NCCI research:
- In terms of loss costs per worker, the major difference among age groups occurs between the 25-34 and the 35-44 age groups.
- All groups ages 35-64 appear to have similar costs per worker.
- The long-held belief that younger workers have much higher injury rates is no longer true.
- Older workers tend to suffer more rotator cuff and knee injuries while younger workers have more back and ankle sprains.
As these findings demonstrate, an aging workforce can have less negative impact on loss costs than originally thought — and put to rest concerns and misconceptions for employers.