Date
17 January 2019
Realizing that older workers can make significant contributions, an increasing number of US firms have stopped setting explicit retirement age for their employees. Photo: Bloomberg
Realizing that older workers can make significant contributions, an increasing number of US firms have stopped setting explicit retirement age for their employees. Photo: Bloomberg

The increasing importance of perennials in the workplace

While companies, particularly in the tech sector, are vying for young employees by offering chic offices, flexible working hours and other things, another category of workforce has been growing rapidly in recent years and may also increasingly hold the key to business success.

The number of these mature workers, or so-called perennials, has been on the rise in the US.

American workers aged 55 and older reached 35.3 million last year, up 4.25 million from 2012, making it the fastest growing segment.

They are expected to represent 24.8 percent of the total workforce in the US by 2024, from merely 11.9 percent in 1994.

Two factors are contributing to this phenomenon.

On one hand, rising life expectancy, due to better nutrition and better health care technology, means more people have more years of healthy life than ever before.

Noticing that these workers are still healthy enough to deliver good performance, and that they have accumulated extensive experience over the decades, which are valuable to both employers and society, an increasing number of US firms have stopped setting an explicit retirement age. Some also won’t set an age limit when hiring new employees.

A tight labor market marked by a multi-decade-low jobless rate of 3.7 percent may also have encouraged more US corporates to hire more mature workers.

Meanwhile, longer life expectancy also means more Americans realize they need to keep working to support their living.

The whole thing is good for the economy in another way—with ongoing salary income, these older people are likely to spend more.

Nonetheless, employing more elder people and also ensuring that such move will not hamper the career advancement opportunities of youngsters would be a testing challenge.

Companies need to come up with the right system to accommodate both the older and younger staff. For example, young people are looking for work-life balance, and they would prefer a long holiday for summer and end of the year. Some retail and consumption companies in the US would hire senior workers during these periods. That has created a win-win for both groups.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 10

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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