The trend toward early retirement has reversed, and today 2/3 of workers age 50-70 say they plan to work into retirement or never retire. The AARP released its 2007 report card on the best employers for workers over 50, so boomers, take note. My dad worked until he was 84, so I have that role model front-and-center in my own future-view on work.

In an important study conducted in 2006, Towers Perrin and AARP projected that, by 2016, there will be a labor shortage in the most industrialized countries, the Group of Seven (G7) nations.* Call it a “grey-drain.” But according to the Towers Perrin survey of 8,200 workers in the G7, older workers want to work, on average, an additional five years beyond the traditional retirement age.

According to Manpower, though, few employers are taking action to recruit and retain older workers. So the AARP Top 50 list is an important tool that points out role models for employers to study.

The AARP survey results provide some clues about how businesses could offer an optimal mix of incentives to attract, retain and engage older workers. AARP says to look at:
  • Recruiting practices,
  • Opportunities for training, education, and career development,
  • Workplace atmosphere,
  • Flexible work options such as job sharing; and,
  • Benefits — both retiree and health benefits.

This last line item may be the most potent. It’s not about the salary, per se. It’s about health security.

It’s been all about health for GM and the UAW, as well. As of this morning, the UAW appears to have settled their labor contract dispute with GM (my blog post of September 13 — Steel, Coffee Beans and Health Care — discusses this negotiation). To settle the matter, the UAW will take on oversight of retirees’ health care liabilities, thus liberating GM from $50 billion worth of future health care obligations. The workers will vote on this and, if it is approved, watch for Ford and Chrysler to take on retiree health in upcoming union talks.

The UAW has agreed to create a union-run fund known as a Voluntary Employee’s Beneficiary Association (VEBA). The VEBA concept was adopted by Goodyear in December 2006, who contributed $1 billion to fund United Steelworkers retiree health.

It is clear that health care costs, in the U.S. and the developed world, are top-of-mind for workers over 50. Watch for employers who anticipate labor shortages to develop creative approaches to providing health care innovations that attract and retain older workers.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: On average, older Americans will work longer than their parents did. This calls for some sound long-term financial and health planning. Develop healthful lifestyle behaviors sooner rather than later to stay vibrant and strong. Save more money for health care needs for your older years. And employers, get real about your future labor force.

*The G7 (Group of 7) includes the seven leading industrial countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, and the US.