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The Changing Workplace

The workplace in America is changing, and will continue to change as we move further into the twenty-first century. Many of these changes are due to technological advances, and others result from shifts in the numbers of workers, and their ages, ethnicities, educations, and so forth.

The U.S. Department of Labor released a report called “futureworks,” which examines the changing face of the American workplace and workforce. Some of the highlights of the report are listed as follows. Please note that all percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole numbers.

Go Figure

According to the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor, the average worker holds 9 jobs by the time he's 32 years old.

  • The population of the United States is expected to grow by nearly 50 percent in the next 50 years. By the year 2050, the population will increase from about 275 million now to about 394 million people, due largely to immigration. This indicates a much larger pool of workers than we have presently.

  • Because immigration will account for two thirds of the population increase, the face of the American workforce will change dramatically. The white population is predicted to drop between 2000 and 2050 from 73 to 53 percent, while the Hispanic population will increase from 10 to 25 percent. The black population will remain fairly steady, rising only from 12 to 14 percent, and the number of Asians and Pacific Islanders will jump from 3 to 8 percent.

  • Baby boomers, who collectively have dominated the American workforce for the past 20 years, will reach retirement age (65) between 2011 and 2029. The average age of the workforce will rise as the boomers get older, and their retirements will precipitate many changes. Increasing numbers of younger workers will be affected by the demands of working while caring for elderly parents (those elderly parents will be us).

  • More Americans are graduating from high school than ever before, and more are going to college. Almost 83 percent of all people who are 25 or older have completed high school, and 24 percent have graduated from college. That's way up from 30 years ago, when only 54 percent of people in this age group had completed high school, and fewer than 10 percent had graduated from college. While education overall is on the rise, however, the numbers vary dramatically among ethnic groups. Asian Americans had the highest high school completion rate in 1997 at more than 90 percent, while graduation rates for blacks and whites were just about the same at 86 and 88 percent respectively. Hispanics, however, saw a high-school graduation rate of only 62 percent. It's clear that the level of education a person has greatly affects his potential for earning. The disparity in education rates between ethnic and racial groups indicates future disparity in earning levels.

  • Women continue to work more, while men are working less. While in 1950 only one third of all women held jobs, 60 percent were working in 2000. On the contrary, the percentage of men working fell from 86 to 75 percent during the same time period. In addition, women are more likely to work full-time in the future than they have in the past, and all year long, rather than just during the months when their children are in school. And increasing numbers of women are starting their own businesses, of which about 60 percent are run from home.

  • The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States will drop dramatically in the next several years, while the number of service-related jobs will increase. The number of agricultural jobs will decrease significantly. Industries and businesses that are looking at big growth include child care, health care, and residential care facilities.

  • While the highest-paid jobs will continue to require the best educated workers, the majority of new jobs will require an Associate's degree or less. This will give unskilled workers more job opportunities, but their wages won't be high.

  • E-commerce will continue to impact the American workplace, and will give more people with disabilities a chance to find jobs that employ computer technologies.

  • Computer technology will continue to cause swift and extensive workplace changes. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that nearly half of all workers in America are employed in industries that either produce, or extensively employ information technology, products, and services. Computer technology also allows workers to operate from places other than the traditional office. Many workers already do at least some of their job from home, while others use computers to file reports and keep in touch from remote locations.

As you can see, there will be many changes in the American workplace during the upcoming years. We'll need to be aware and keep up with the changing workplace in order to remain competitive workers until we retire.

More on: Family Finances


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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