In the current bad economy older Americans typically remain out of work longer than younger ones. But a new study indicates that boomers will be in a strong position to win new jobs created in the future.
Roughly half of employment growth in the coming eight years will be in the "social sector" — such fields as health care, public assistance, education, performing arts, museums and government — work for which boomers could be very well qualified, according to new research by Mark Melnik, deputy director for research at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and Barry Bluestone, dean of Northeastern University's School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.
To help relieve a labor shortage that would inevitably follow a retirement explosion among boomers, the researchers expect that older people will stay in the workforce longer, creating "encore careers" that combine personal fulfillment, social impact and continued income.
The report, "Encore Careers: One Solution to the Coming Labor Shortage," predicts that by 2018 the social sector will create 6.9 million new jobs, accounting for 47 percent of all U.S. employment growth.
The researchers concluded that boomers may be the perfect solution for the sector's labor needs, taking positions that complement individual interests and rarely require physical labor.
In many cases, older workers would be able to carry their existing skills and credentials into new occupations. But coauthor Melnik says that older workers would still do well to update their skill sets to meet the needs of an evolving market.
"Technology has made work a different thing today," says Melnik. He predicts that "there's going to be more demand for older workers to stay in the labor force. ... Baby boomers are such a large group, and now live longer. So this is a group that's going to be around for a long time."
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