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Baby Boomers Launch Assault Against Ageism

Sun., April 21, 1996

‘Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

In the 1960s and early ‘70s, that was the revolutionary cry of the Baby Boomers.

“Today these same people don’t trust anyone under 30,” says Gary Kamimura of the Washington State Employment Security Department.

“Ironically,” says the labor-market economic analyst, “the very people who actively propagated ageism now are the ones who will wish to end it.

“With their great numbers,” says the statistician, “boomers have the power to effect change, and good reason to do so.

“They are becoming,” says Kamimura, “the older worker whom they have been making fun of all these years. And as they become the target of discrimination, they are finding they don’t like it.”

To truly feel the angst of ageism, most people have to have been there and done that - fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam; raised a family; become a grandparent. But labor analyst Kamimura is a rare exception.

A fourth-generation Japanese-American who was born at the “tail end” of the Baby Boom, he comes from a cultural background and family milieu that continues to “venerate” age, Kamiura told me in an interview.

Writing in LMI Review, a quarterly magazine which focuses on labor market issues, he ends a lengthy feature article on aging of the work force thus: “No generation is fixed in time. Each is born, lives out its life, and passes on.

“The boomers are clearly more than merely another demographic trend or statistical blip. They represent the most significant social, political, and economic phenomenon to shape the U.S. in the post-World War II era. Before they pass, they will have given new meaning to the term older worker, and changed forever the way we regard and define retirement.

“They will have exposed the long-ignored and unchallenged practices of ageism and age discrimination in the workplace, and secured statutes and regulations to combat them.”

By the turn of the century, says Kamimura, “most boomers will have reached 55 and be classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as “older workers.”

“However,” he says, “the politically potent boomers are intent on wielding their influence to shift the country’s socio-cultural values from one that embraces youth and vitality to one that values age, wisdom and experience.”

Maturing of the labor force favors the boomers.

“The number of older workers and elderly workers will gradually assume a larger work-force share than new entrants - a pattern that historically has been reversed,” Kamimura writes. “Workers 55 and older are the fastest growing segment of the work force, and the median age of the work force is projected to reach 40 by 2010.”

“In stark contrast to this,” writes Kamimura, “The number of new entrants into the work force is expected to rise at less than 1 percent per year in the early 21st century.”

The numbers speak for themselves. “Employers will increasingly need older workers, given that the replacement work force will be inadequate to fill the gaps that almost surely will appear,” says the labor market analyst.

But will older workers need employers? “Yes,” Kamimura told me. “Boomers are very, very low savers.”

Research shows that, while those of retirement age who continue to work do so for many reasons, “a vast number of individuals want to retire but cannot afford to,” Kamimura reports. And this “has social scientists and policy-makers concerned.”

Recent surveys reveal, he says, “that 40 percent of all American workers age 51 to 61 can expect no pensions or retirement income beyond Social Security.”

That’s nearly half of those facing “retirement.”

“Compounding that,” Kamimura adds, “20 percent have no personal savings, investments, real estate or other assets, And 14 percent lack health insurance.”

In summing up, the analyst says, “Though our traditional assumptions have not changed, the social, political, and economic landscape of America has. Those changes may have already rendered our traditional assumptions about work and retirement obsolete.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review



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