Dec 11, 2019

When automation and aging collide

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Two global mega-trends — automation and aging — are coming together to upend the future of work.

Why it matters: The world is aging, and older people are a larger share of the global population than ever. But a critical lack of job retraining programs targeting workers over 50 is putting this growing population at risk, per a new report from the research arm of professional services firm Marsh & McLennan.

The state of play: Older workers are under-appreciated in the global workforce, says Yvonne Sonsino, one of the report's contributors.

  • In 2015, workers over 50 contributed $7.6 trillion to the American economy, and that's projected to go up to $13.5 trillion by 2032.
  • But the average older worker in the U.S. is working a job that's more than 50% automatable — meaning over half of the tasks included in the job can eventually be done by a machine. These occupations include everything from heavy manufacturing jobs to clerical, back-office work.
  • Most upskilling and reskilling programs — whether at community colleges or through boot camps — are geared toward younger people. But it's actually cheaper to train older workers who have decades of experience in the workforce than it is to train new graduates, the researchers found. In the U.K., for example, the government spends around $840 per learner aged 25–49, compared to around $420 per learner aged 50–74.

The bottom line: Just 4% of companies around the globe surveyed by the World Economic Forum in 2016 say they see the value in investing in their older employees.

Go deeper: Robots are stepping in to help solve the worker shortage driven by aging

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U.S. companies are forcing workers to train their own foreign replacements

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Opponents of job outsourcing are making a holiday-season appeal to President Trump: Stop U.S. companies from forcing American workers to train the very same cheaper foreign laborers who will soon replace them.

Why it matters: Trump promised voters he'd end abuses of worker visa programs and save U.S. jobs — but as he campaigns for re-election, advocates say he hasn't done enough.

Affordability is driving Americans' decisions on where to live

Data: Prudential; Note: ±3.0 margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Most American workers place affordability above jobs on the priority list when determining where to live, according to Prudential's Pulse of the American Worker survey conducted in November by Morning Consult.

Why it matters: The high cost of living in job-rich centers holds people back from looking for new opportunities there.

Go deeperArrowDec 31, 2019

Americans are moving less

Data: Census 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Fewer than 10% of Americans moved to new places in the 2018-2019 year, the lowest rate since the Census Bureau began tracking domestic relocations in 1947.

Why it matters: Despite a strong economy, more people are feeling locked in place. Young adults, who have historically been the most mobile, are staying put these days thanks to housing and job limitations. So are aging adults who are reluctant to (or can't afford to) make a move.