Academic journal article Review of Business

Labor and Economic Trends: Effect on U.S. Workforce

Academic journal article Review of Business

Labor and Economic Trends: Effect on U.S. Workforce

Article excerpt

The United States is currently in a new economy with new competitive standards. Attempting to meet these standards is changing the way companies do business and the way in which workers do their jobs. The old economy of the United States competed primarily on the basis of productivity and price. According to a report called "America And The New Economy," produced by the American Society for Training and Development and the United States Department of Labor, this new economy will require additional competitive standards: quality, variety, customization, convenience and timeliness. Anthony P. Carnevale, chief economist of the American Society for Training and Development, states that "those companies which adopt the new standards will be the ones that succeed. Workers who acquire the skills the new standards demand will be the ones with the best job opportunities.|1~ The development of a new economy has caused the role of people at work to change by increasing worker responsibilities and skill requirements and by making worker responsibilities less job specific.

Major demographic trends are occurring within the workforce and labor market of the United States today. For instance, as the "baby boomers" age and the "baby busters" enter the labor force, the average age of the labor force will increase. There will be a growing need to retain experienced workers in order to meet requirements for new skills because new workers will be in short supply. There are a few employers that are already reacting creatively to the aging workforce. For example, Days Inn has hired and trained retired persons to handle computerized reservations. Unfortunately, a new survey conducted by Towers Perrin and the Hudson Institute shows that most employers are doing little or nothing to respond to the aging workforce.

Another demographic trend with significant impact on the labor market of the United States is the movement of large numbers of women into the workforce. It is estimated that more than sixty percent of the people entering the labor force between now and the year 2000 will be women. This is causing more stress for workers, both male and female, who have to cope with both family and job demands. In order for employers to attract and retain the desired skills in tight labor markets, they will have to produce work environments that are conducive to the family. Specifically, these work environments will have to include such things as schedule flexibility, dependent care programs and leave programs. Some large employers have already begun to establish this type of work environment for their employees. For example, IBM provides its employees with schedule flexibility, extended personal leaves and dependent care referral services. Also, IBM has recognized the need to conduct training programs that sensitize its managers to the problems that employees may encounter as they try to balance family and job demands. According to the Towers Perrin/Hudson survey, many employers are doing little or nothing to help employees in this area.

The workforce of the United States is becoming more diverse as more minorities enter the job market. Minority group members, particularly blacks and Hispanics, will be a major source of future labor force growth in many parts of the country. It will become essential to improve the labor market skills of minorities and to remove any remaining discrimination in today's labor market. If the United States industry is to maintain its competitive international position, these new participants must be integrated into the labor force with minimal disruption and loss of productivity. However this task is complicated because these new entrants are characterized by different cultural backgrounds. Those organizations that can adapt to culturally different workers will have the opportunity to attract and retain the most qualified people in these minority groups and to obtain the best performance from them.

As shown in Figure 1, projections by the Department of Labor and the Hudson Institute indicate that US-born white males are expected to comprise only fifteen percent of the new entrants into the workforce from now to the year 2000. …

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