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New Study: States Need 50+ Workers for Economic Vitality

massachusetts leaders should capitalize on coming age wave


2 April 2008—As Massachusetts leaders develop solutions to stimulate the state’s sagging economy, 50-plus workers should be part of the mix. According to a new policy brief by the Boston College Center on Aging & Work and AARP, the future vitality of the commonwealth will likely depend on 50-plus workers, and it’s down to state leadership to capitalize on the coming age wave. Like much of the world, the United States is an increasingly aging society. In Massachusetts, nearly 40 percent of the commonwealth’s population will be 50 years or older by 2010. Shortly thereafter, almost one in five workers will be at least 55 a 50 percent increase in mature workers. At the same time, the pool of younger workers will diminish due to lower birthrates. 

State leaders must play an active role in developing policy and initiatives to capture the value of 50-plus workers,says Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, co-director of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. Most of the attention paid to the aging of the workforce has focused on national trends. However, the thought leadership for economic and workforce development occurs at the state level.

The policy brief, 21st Century Age Demographics: Opportunities for Visionary State Leadership, provides information to help state leaders nationwide examine the connection between aging and work, and how changes in the labor force participation of older adults will affect their states. The brief also outlines options for leaders to enhance their state’s readiness for the aging of the workforce.

In Massachusetts, as part of the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, the state Legislature has already included a $1 million earmark for older worker retraining. But, as highlighted in the policy brief, state leaders can do more to advance public sector innovation and increase employment options for 50-plus workers. Specific steps include: raising awareness, encouraging business leaders to respond, expanding resources, benchmarking progress, and positioning Massachusetts as a model employer.

As the 12th oldest state in the nation, Massachusetts is at the leading edge of the coming age wave in the U.S. workforce. Employment sectors likely to be hardest hit by the aging workforce are those that encourage long service, have had relatively little hiring in recent years, and experienced major downsizing in the 1980s and 1990s. Industry examples include health care, defense and aerospace, education and government all sectors critical to the Massachusetts economy.

Connect the dots and the conclusion is clear employers must focus on recruiting, training and retraining the 50-plus worker if they are to meet their workforce needs in the years to come, and the state must lead the way,says Deborah Banda, state director of AARP Massachusetts, which represents 860,000 members age 50 and over in the Bay State.

After all,Banda continues, the decisions 50-plus workers make about employment versus retirement could have significant financial implications for the state. Those who continue working may require fewer state benefits and resources, particularly if they have access to employer-sponsored programs and services. And, perhaps most importantly,she concludes, if Massachusetts doesn’t keep 50-plus workers on the job, we risk losing them to other states that may be ahead of the curve, not behind the time.

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About The State Initiatives at the Boston College Center on Aging & Work:? The State Initiatives at the Boston College Center on Aging & Work partners with state leaders across the country to examine the impact of the 21st century age demographics on economic and workforce development and to address 21st century workforce readiness. The Institute gathers and analyzes information about employment at state agencies, as well as workforce demographics in the states’ primary industry sectors.

About AARP:?AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 33 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 39 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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