Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Business
  2. Economics
16 October 2012

The old aren’t stealing our jobs

Baby boomers just as harmless as they look.

By Martha Gill

As people live longer and pension plans are put under pressure, there’s been a fairly pervasive thought that younger workers are getting squeezed out by an ageing workforce, holding onto their jobs with spindly arthritic fingers that just refuse to snap.

But it turns out this view is not entirely correct. It turns out that the opposite is correct. After looking at jobs data recorded between 1977 and 2011, the Centre for Retirement Research found, in fact, that “greater employment of older persons leads to better outcomes for the young in the form of reduced unemployment, increased employment and a higher wage”.

So filling up jobs with the elderly actually helps younger people? How is this possible? Well, it’s only surprising if you agree with the “lump of labour” theory – the idea that there’s only so much work to go around. According to the report however, evidence for this theory is dwindling.

It said: “Employers already have reservations about older workers, so adding the false argument that retaining older workers hurts younger ones could impede the ability of older workers to remain in the labor force. Therefore, public discourse will be improved by putting the lump-of-labor theory to rest. The theory may sound plausible, but the data do not support it.”

The widely touted tussle between generation Y and the baby boomers may be drawing to an end.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy