Get ready for baby boomers’ exit from workforce
The Census Bureau projects that one of six workers in Hawaii is at least 55 years old and nearing retirement.
AS baby boomers near retirement, Hawaii faces a potential worker shortage
that threatens to be debilitating to county and state governments and the economy. Nearly one in six workers in the state is 55 or older and will be eligible to retire in four years, and employers will need not only to fill their jobs but find more workers for a growing economy.
The problem, of course, is nationwide, resulting from improved health care and a bulging post-World War II birth rate. The median age in the country rose from 22.9 years in 1900 to 35.3 years in 2000. In the two decades following the war, 70 percent more births were recorded than in the previous 20 years.
The Census Bureau projects that the national population 65 and older will increase from about one in eight people to one in five by 2030. In a previous report, the bureau projected that the number of Hawaii residents 65 and older will increase from 164,000, or 13.8 percent of the population, in 2005 to 289,000, or 16 percent, in 2025.
Andrew Mason, an economics professor at the University of Hawaii, anticipates an even greater aging of Hawaii's population. In a report five years ago, Mason advised the state that the percentage of Hawaii's population 65 and older will increase from 13 percent in 2000 to 24.5 percent in 2030, with seniors numbering 45 for every 100 persons of working age (24 to 64).
In the new report, which makes no projections for Hawaii, the Census Bureau reports that 15.9 percent of the work force was 55 or older in 2004, but that figure is low for some pockets of the state's economy. In agriculture, forestry and fishing, 30.8 percent of the workers had reached that age, and James Hardway, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, says 45 percent of his department's employees will be eligible to retire in five years.
What will employers do? Hardway told the Star-Bulletin's Nelson Daranciang that the state plans to recruit older workers, released convicts, people with disabilities and those in welfare-to-work programs. He says the state also will train people already in the workforce to perform high-skilled jobs.
In the private sector, David Bower, marketing director of Altres, the state's largest employment company, says businesses will need to look beyond salaries and make workers happy with their workload, work environment and lifestyle.