Magazine article Management Review

The Workforce of the Year 2000

Magazine article Management Review

The Workforce of the Year 2000

Article excerpt

The Workforce of the Year 2000

The 1980s has been a decade of explosive growth for the outplacement industry; indeed, its revenues this year may exceed one-third of a billion dollars. Downsizing of corporations through massive reductions in force--including more than one million managers--has been the order of the day. By now, human resource departments have developed great expertise in such downsizing techniques, for example, as early-retirement financial-assistance plans. Ironically, many companies are sharply reducing their workforces just in time to face a new challenge--an oncoming scarcity of labor.

Last January, having just finished visiting with a friend 10 years my junior who had availed himself of a generous "voluntary" early-retirement option, I picked up a copy of Fortune magazine, whose pages opened to an article about the recruitment of older workers. Afterwards, I turned to that month's issue of Management Review, in which Minda Zetlin's article described how three organizations were already conducting aggressive programs aimed at attracting older workers, particularly their own retirees.

Last fall, the American Society for Personnel Administration conducted a nationwide survey of employers' recent hiring experiences. Of its more than 700 respondents, over half reported some problems in filling open positions--43 percent describing moderate to very great difficulties in recruiting qualified executives, and 66 percent had trouble finding technical personnel.

Shortly afterward, a Louis Harris survey, commissioned by Coopers & Lybrand, indicated that over 70 percent of senior manufacturing executives and plant managers consider recruiting and retaining knowledgeable workers a serious problem. Manufacturing jobs increasingly call on technical skills--just at a time when we bemoan the lack of numerical proficiency of our young people. According to a report of the National Research Council, "We are at risk of becoming a divided nation in which knowledge of mathematics supports a productive, technologically powerful elite, while a dependent, semiliterate majority, disproportionately Hispanic and black, finds economic and political power beyond reach. Unless corrected, innumeracy and illiteracy will drive America apart."

Yet the growing shortage of labor is not restricted to manufacturing personnel nor to the technically proficient. Help-wanted signs posted at fast-food restaurants and retail stores have for many years been signaling a far wider labor shortage. And as the pool of older teen-agers declines, 14- and 15-year-old children are increasingly filling jobs in the service sector and elsewhere.

Against this background, who will fill tomorrow's jobs? Clearly the future workforce will differ from today's. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that only 15 percent of the new entrants to the labor force between 1987 and the year 2000 will be native white males, compared with the 47 percent who were in that category in 1987. Women will provide almost two-thirds of the growth through the end of this century--largely because more men than women will be exiting their jobs over that period of time.

Similarly, Hispanics (the fastest-growing minority) will account for almost 28 percent of the labor-force growth and blacks about 17 percent. And immigrants will represent the largest share of the workforce increase since World War I. …

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