Demographic Landslide Could Bury Employers: Chao

Washington, June 20, 2001 ( - Employers and employees are facing a demographic landslide that will keep people employed longer, invite a fresh look at immigration and increase opportunities for disabled Americans, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said Wednesday.

In a speech at the 21 st Century Workforce Summit, Chao called the result of the demographic changes affecting the US the incredible shrinking workforce the advent of an unprecedented labor shortage.

In just a few decades, our demographic destiny will leave us with a ballooning class of retirees all relying on expensive entitlement programs and a shrinking class of workers who are paying the taxes to fund those programs, Chao said. If we fail to respond to this issue, the results will be disastrous: high labor costs driving up inflation.

Senior Shift

The labor secretary foresees a turnaround in early retirement, with employers moving away from encouraging workers to retire early. In the next 10 years, the opposite will happen: employers will bend over backwards to keep seniors on the job longer, offering flexible work arrangements, she said.

She called for the concept of phased retirement  letting seniors gradually transition from full-time to part-time work, while giving them partial access to pension benefits. She did not announce any specific initiatives in this regard.

Chao also emphasized new initiatives to prepare the disabled for work as part of a remedy to the coming labor shortage. She forecast a new look at immigration restrictions, because, as she said ?the immigrant’s hope is closely entwined with America’s need.