Baby-boomer retirement to benefit college students

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As aging baby-boomers begin retiring, the effects on the entire economy and on certain occupations and industries will be substantial, creating a need for younger workers to fill vacated jobs, many of which require relatively high skill levels.

The baby-boomer generation, a reported 76 million, will begin retiring in the next several years. Generation X, the next generation in line, contains only about 40 million people. Simple subtraction reveals the discrepancies in jobs available and workers capable of filling those jobs.

The retirement of many baby boomers is a herald of benefits for college students, Fred Brock, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications, said.

“Young people in college will benefit enormously in three ways,” Brock said. “There will be lots of jobs; there will be competition – not for jobs, but for workers, and there will be higher wages because of competition for workers.”

With the influx of jobs, Brock said outsourcing will greatly decrease because so many jobs will be available.

Furthermore, if companies cannot keep pace with the changing workforce, Brock said it will retard economic growth.

“If companies cannot get enough workers, it cannot grow, and the economy will shrink,” Brock said.

The jobs most significantly affected would be health and educational services because these fields are less conducive to technology-driven productivity, and heavily rely on highly skilled workers to replace baby boomers.

Even occupations like manufacturing that are technologically innovative will need new workers to enter the workforce sooner so they can be proficient in the necessary skills by the time baby boomers retire.

For some of the poorest communities, the large-scale retirements might be detrimental, said Laszlo Kulcsar, associate professor of sociology and director of the Kansas Population Center.

Kulcsar said in rural areas the younger members are leaving for the job-rich cities and leaving the older populations behind. As the baby boomers retire, there could be a dearth of people to fill these positions.

“I see it as a negative economic spiral,” he said.

Some small towns are attempting to capitalize on these trends though, and Manhattan now is projecting an image that will be friendly to retirees, said Christy Seele, marketing/program coordinator for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

The influx of retirees and the jobs necessary to provide for a larger population is beneficial to the community, Steele said.

Manhattan has not done any research on population dynamics in regard to aging, Seele said, but the city is not worried.

“There are a lot of opportunities out there,” he said. “It’s pretty wide open.”

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