The graying of the workforce and its impacts to project work

The graying of the workforce and its impacts to project work

I found this very revealing infographic on the increasing graying of the workforce on the AARP site:


There’s no doubt that this “graying” of the workforce will have significant impacts to the work that gets undertaken for projects in terms of teams, stakeholders and the very project managers themselves.  Fortunately, the field of project management is one in which the more experience you have the better you become at it.  There’s a certain level of maturity and most importantly wisdom, that really only comes about after you gotten your hands dirty in this profession.  The dirtier the better!

But some of the negative impacts will be realized when the up and coming younger workers get ready to enter the workforce and have to compete with older more experienced people for the same limited jobs.  The benefit I just outlined above regarding the maturity and wisdom that comes with experience, is of often unobtainable by those trying to enter the project management field since many who should be retiring from that profession are not.


The generational conflicts will only be heightened due to the increased dwindling down of benefits such as social security benefits and pensions.  This recent article from the Economist titled “Money to burn: The muddle-headed world of American public-pension accounting“, really hits this point home:

Final-salary pension costs have risen for decades because workers are living longer and the retirement age has barely budged. The bill was disguised in the 1980s and 1990s by good asset returns. But dismal equity markets have since forced many private providers to close final-salary schemes to new members and switch to less lavish defined-contribution plans…

Failing to recognise the true cost of public pensions builds up all sorts of problems, as an academic paper last year made clear.  As pension funds become more mature (ie, more of their members are retired) their asset allocation should, in theory, become more conservative. After all, the fund has to worry more about paying benefits immediately and has less scope to gamble that riskier assets will deliver long-term growth.

Sure enough, mature pension funds in Canada and Europe and in America’s private sector all follow this approach.  But more mature American public plans have riskier portfolios than less mature equivalents.  In its latest “Global Financial Stability Report” the IMF worried that American funds had increased the riskiness of their portfolios, “exposing them to greater volatility and liquidity risks”.

Interestingly, companies have come up with auto-enrollment pension schemes to alliterative such problems.  With this scheme, the UK government hopes to boost the number of Britons that are saving into a pension and ensure they have enough cash in retirement to maintain a comfortable standard of living.  According to this article by the Telegraph, “Seven in 10 private sector workers do not currently pay into a retirement scheme, and auto enrolment is designed to plug this pensions gap – making a workplace pension an opt out rather than opt in system.”

With more people living longer and less of these people with the savings and investments to carry them throughout their retirements, many will be back in the workforce.  This will have significant impacts that to those managing projects in the future and is something to be mindful of and anticipate.

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