The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, October 15, 2003  

Who Will Take Their Jobs?
And Who Will Buy Their Houses?

The baby boomers, as they themselves are painfully aware, aren’t getting any younger. And while many Americans are working past the normal retirement age of 65, eventually this particular generation’s retirements will have an enormous impact on the economy.

It’s a topic that has emerged intermittently in the financial media in recent years, and one we can expect to hear more about in coming years. In today’s New York Times, editor Fred Brock raises the issue once again (“Who’ll Sit at the Boomers’ Desks?”):

[T]he big baby-boom generation is starting to retire. Its oldest members are about 57 and will be 65 in 2011. There simply aren’t enough workers behind them in the labor supply pipeline to fill their jobs. Employers will have to try to retain older workers in some capacity or lure retired workers back into the work force. Companies that have treated their workers badly or engaged in even the subtlest forms of age discrimination will regret it. So will companies that just ignore the problem.

The primary source for the Times article, Paul Kaihla, a senior writer for Business 2.0 (see “The Coming Job Boom”), says the baby-boomer-retirement-induced labor shortage already is affecting the economy and will be in full swing by 2005, only to worsen dramatically over the subsequent 15 years.

The implications? Later retirements for baby boomers, more flexible hours to keep them in the workforce, increased immigration of high-skilled workers, and a better labor market and compensation environment for the post-baby-boom generation.

It’s all very interesting, but I’m wondering why no one seems concerned about a related issue that has been on my mind during the recent housing boom (which, by the way, I’m convinced is a dangerous bubble just waiting to be pricked)?: Who the hell do all these smug and self-satisfied baby boomers think is going to buy their already overpriced houses?

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