We need older workers in the workforce.

Ever heard of the “Lump of Labor Fallacy”? Perhaps not the name, but maybe the idea. The argument goes something like, “if you add more people to the workforce – or if people don’t leave it – there will be fewer jobs left for everyone else”.

We have all heard a version of this before: If older people do not retire, there will be fewer jobs for younger people. 

Micro vs. macro

This makes sense in when looking at a particular, individual workplace. “If my manager does not retire or move on soon, I will have to wait to make manager.” That may be true. You may not make manager at that place any time soon. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a manager somewhere else, especially if the workforce is growing.

In the wider perspective, more people working means more people with money to spend. There is not a fixed number or “lump of labor” for which everyone is competing. The number of jobs expands to meet the needs of additional consumers. It has been shown over and over that when more people are working, the economy grows. That means more jobs. People spend and businesses need more managers to run the businesses fueled by this growth.

What if everyone retires?

There is another side to the argument that older workers should move out of the way. What happens to those older workers who retire? They are on fixed incomes, while the cost of living grows. Plus, these days, we all live longer. So, these retired former workers may need financial support from those still in the labor force.

More people in the workforce does not mean fewer available jobs. It means a bigger economy and less need for support from the rest of the community.

On top of all this, we are also facing a labor shortage. We need older workers in the workforce to help our economy.

Why not keep people working? It makes the best use of the longer, healthier lives many of us will see.

Want to learn more about the case for intergenerational workplaces? Check out our page on age-friendly workplaces. Changing the Narrative can also come to you. To set up a presentation or get more information, contact us.

Sara Breindel, Changing the Narrative blogger

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