Population shifts create new issues THE WORKPLACE

July 25, 1993

The changing face of the population is also reshaping work and the workplace, with the dominant trends being the aging of America and the emergence of minority employees as the majority of new jobholders.

Between 1990 and 2020 the number of under-50-year-olds will shrink by 1.5 percent while the over-50 crowd will expand by 76 percent to more than 112 million, according to the Census Bureau.

An aging population hits the workplace several ways:

Older Americans spend less money than younger consumers and spend it in different ways, affecting the future mix of &L products and services.

Employers will need to deal with more older workers, affecting how they create and assign work, retraining issues and the mix of employee benefits.

Employees will face growing responsibilities for older relatives, making elder care as much of a workplace issue as child care.

Consumers over the age of 55 spent 50 percent less than the average of nearly $33,450 in outlays made in 1991 by people age 25 to 54, according to a government survey. And the level of household formation, which drives big-ticket consumer buying, is forecast to drop from an annual average of 1.3 million during the 1980s to 1.16 million during the 1990s. Both trends mean fewer jobs in the goods-producing sectors of the economy.

Racial and ethnic minorities will be generating most of the economy's new workers in the next decade, raising significant training and cultural-adjustment issues for employers. The white share of the population will drop from 75 percent in 1992 to 53 percent in 2050, as the black population almost doubles to 62 million, Hispanics more than triple to 81 million, and Asians more than quadruple to 41 million.

Further, based on current immigration trends and laws, there will be 82 million post-1991 immigrants by the middle of the next century, when they and their descendants will make up 21 percent of the population, and account for 93 percent of the population growth.

This progressive multiculturalization, coupled with the prospect of already slow job growth, will doubtless fuel continued concerns over U.S. immigration policies.

Congress has established a Commission on Immigration Reform analyze the economic and social impact of the growing numbers. Its executive director, Susan Forbes Martin, said: "I don't think there is any controversy as to the fact there are major impacts. The controversy is whether they are positive or negative. As long as there is disagreement about the future of the U.S. economy, there is going to be disagreement about immigration."

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