The Political Economy of Work in the 21st Century: Implications for an Aging American Workforce

The Political Economy of Work in the 21st Century: Implications for an Aging American Workforce

The Political Economy of Work in the 21st Century: Implications for an Aging American Workforce

The Political Economy of Work in the 21st Century: Implications for an Aging American Workforce

Synopsis

Sicker examines the realities and uncertainties the aging American work force will face in the employment environment of the 21st century in the light of the major restructuring of business operations and the world of work that has taken place in the final decades of the last century.

Excerpt

The average age of the population of the United States, and of other industrialized nations, is increasing. This is not only one of the consequences of a relatively low birthrate that is slowing population growth, it is also being brought about simply because people generally are living longer and healthier lives, a tribute to the advances in medical science and other environmental factors. Suffice it to note that in 1900 there were about 3,500 centenarians in the United States. Today the number is estimated to be about 66,000. We are becoming a progressively older society, and that fact presents a series of concerns that should engage our attention.

This was brought home to us most dramatically in late 1998 with the space odyssey of senior citizen John Glenn. As pointed out by one journalist, “the fact that a 77-year-old man is now orbiting the globe is a vivid reminder of the debate we’re not having on earth. This, of course, involves America’s inevitable aging.” That debate should be over what we must do to reconstitute our society, its values, policies and institutions, to meet the challenge before us. However, as a society, we have a tendency to avoid dealing with broad and seemingly overly complex issues, and only do so as infrequently as possible. As a result, the debate that is just beginning to take place in earnest has essentially been limited to that of how to respond to the anticipated growth in national expenditures for the elderly in the forms of Social Security and Medicare.

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