How the employment revolution impacts us all

Key takeaways

  • Michael Ehrlich, Director of Leir Research Institute, says the COVID-19 pandemic offers opportunities for older workers.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the labor force participation rate for people age 75 and older will rise from 8.9 percent in 2020 to 11.7 percent by 2030.1
  • By 2030, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old, and 9.5 percent of the civilian labor force is projected to be older than 65

According to Professor Michael Ehrlich, Director of Leir Research Institute & N.J Innovation Acceleration Center, we are in the midst of an employment revolution. Investors, who agree with him are asking what the future of the workforce is following the great resignation? 

“You know, not that everybody’s going to win all the time, but I think that there’s plenty of opportunity for people to add value and have productive, valuable lives that go on into their 80s, whether they’re working or they choose to be retired,” Ehrlich said.

He spoke with Yieldstreet’s Peter Kerr about the significant forces impacting American workers and the U.S. economy following the COVID-19 pandemic. “The real wages of people since 1980 are flat, right, I mean, certainly, the lower half of the income spectrum of the Americans have actually had zero gains above inflation since the ’80s. That’s unsustainable,“ Ehrlich told Kerr.

He says three major forces drive change, each with different effects and each going in its own direction. They are the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19, technological changes that are changing how and where we work, and the aging workforce. Ehrlich said each would impact the current and future employment landscape.

Workers ‘rethinking their relationship to work’

He described the pandemic as a life-threatening moment that we all experienced simultaneously. Over the last two years, many people reconsidered their relationship with their jobs, and some have left the workforce. 

“A lot of people are rethinking their relationship to work, and so what we’re calling the great retirement or where basically a lot of people are leaving or the great quitting where people are leaving the workforce, I think people are thinking geez, is this really what I want to do with my life and is this really the priority,” Ehrlich asked?

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Some are no longer as interested in work as they once were, according to Ehrlich, who said the demand for higher wages and better work-life balance has increased. This change has helped drive up wages and contributed to a significant shift in the cultural focus of work.

The second significant impact on today’s workforce is technology. The major shift in remote work has significantly impacted commercial real estate, leaving a surplus of office space available around the country. Advances in A.I. and machine learning have also increased the productivity of human workers.

The aging workforce is the third component of the employment revolution. Ehrlich said the average life expectancy for someone who reaches age 65 is between 85 and 90, meaning that there are decades facing someone who retires at age 65. Ehrlich discussed ways to utilize the skills of older workers and make everyone, no matter their age, more productive.

The workplace will continue to change, and Ehrlich pointed out that having an open mind and a willingness to go with the flow can lead anyone to a more fulfilling and productive work life.

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1Ted: The Economics Daily November 4, 2021

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