Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hitting the Wall

As the post World War II generation ages and continues to march ever more closely towards approaching retirement, the subject of the labour force in general surfaces again and again in a variety of ways both in the media and in casual conversation, and from many different angles. There is the obvious matter of declining numbers of older workers and the expanding spaces in the workforce which are being freed up for the younger workers. It is nothing to hear that it may be impossible to find enough people to plug the holes of the departing members, which might at least be a source of encouragement for youth. Another slant is that the younger people are going to bring to the workplace a significantly different approach to work, not just more balanced, but certainly more technologically savvy. This further entails that people may modify the traditional work environment by switching places in a standard office to a home-based production. The novelty of a "virtual" office is no longer purely hypothetical.

Concern has been voiced about the disappearance of the senior members of the labour force who will effectively remove huge amounts of intelligence and experience from the marketplace, something which may reasonably dishearten those who rely in particular upon crack professional opinions. By the same token, an unexpectedly large proportion of professional advisors (people like accountants, lawyers and financial advisors) are saying they have no intention of retiring at this time, first because they are making no positive succession plans, and second - and perhaps most telling - because they cannot imagine having the financial resources to call it quits. Among the same crowd are also those who frankly enjoy their work and don’t pretend to embrace the reputed joys of golf.

Blended with this evolving discussion and conversation is the fact that North American workers have successfully burdened themselves with unprecedented debt loads; and, they are only now discovering that it may take more than five years to do what in the past has taken others a lifetime to achieve. Even when faced with this stark reality, the spoiled post-war generation has very little idea where to begin. Almost any step taken in the right direction at this late date spells significant compromise and accommodation, not exactly what cupidity demands.

Just as the younger people appear to cultivate a less frantic work ethic, it may also be that the older workers, in an effort to fashion a form of semi-retirement, will slow the pace of commerce. I reckon we’re still a long way from those societies which have enjoyed the siesta, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a surge of interest in such a habit. Naturally there will always be those who are driven by the accumulation of wealth and possessions, but the value and promise of it may be less desirable for the majority. In line with this thinking is the well documented knowledge of the effects of stress on people, a disease which was once reserved only for the pusillanimous of society.

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