We're all Betty White Now
By MICHAEL HODIN,
Posted: October 13, 2010
With unemployment continuing to hover close to 10% and an election a few weeks away, it may be politically impossible to engage in any serious jobs discussion. But, two separate and otherwise unrelated developments point to a need for a more thoughtful look on how we work and retire.
First, an NPR story last week reflected a growing development driven by the realities of the 20th century’s longevity revolution: A recent study, “Working in Retirement: A 21st Century Phenomenon” by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) says 20% of Americans 50 and over who have retired and are planning to go back to work. Second is today’s news of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science going to Professors Peter Diamond, Dale T. Mortensen, and Christopher A. Pissarides for their research about why it takes so long for people to find jobs…and why so many people can be unemployed even when many jobs are available.”
Clearly, there is a profound and growing need for a new way of approaching work and retirement during this demographic transformation. It is not surprising that globally everyone is recognizing the age related benefits - pension and social security programs -- are unfit for purpose. Neither in Oshkosh, Frankfurt, London nor Seoul do we anymore leave work in our 50s and die a few years later, as the original idea for these programs a hundred years ago presumed. With many millions in good health living long into what traditionally had been considered retirement age, we will have a whole new demographic cohort working for economic growth.
Working into older age is a pursuit that allows us to work more flexibly at different jobs for many more years--what Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson called, The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work. Benko and Anderson understand that if citizens over 60 are to be productive contributors to wealth creation, we will all require a continuous cycle of learning and earning starting early in life.
Not surprisingly, there’s not much about this topic inside the campaign trails across America’s political landscape. The consequences of political indifference now won’t be seen in the next three weeks, and perhaps not even in the next election cycle, but there is a revolution underway that is coming from the wise old owls.