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By Steve Levy

Who Will Replace Baby Boomers as They Retire

Uploaded: Jul 26, 2013

Retiring baby boomers will be replaced by immigrants and their children who will account for over 80% of America's labor force growth and change over the next 20 years.

During these years the large baby boom generation will move slowly out of the workforce even as many baby boomers work into their late 60s and 70s. Between 2010 and 2030 nearly 59 million workers will leave the labor force and need to be replaced and, in addition, the labor force will increase by 24 million making 83 million jobs that need to be filled by workers with the right training and experience.

Between 2010 and 2030 41% of the nation's labor force growth will come from new immigrants, 43% from the children of immigrants and just 16% from the children of native-born parents.

Most (2/3) of future job openings will come from replacing workers and both the replacement jobs and job growth will be spread among a broad spectrum of industries and occupations. And while in the future there will be more jobs that require higher levels of education, job growth will occur for workers at all educational and experience levels, from those without a high school degree to doctoral degree holders.

The nation will need a growing number of experienced workers at all skill levels due to the number of older workers that are being replaced. Because the baby boomers are more highly educated than earlier generations, replacement needs at higher skill levels will accelerate. This is a substantial shift from the situation before 2010, when a much larger share of older workers leaving the workforce had less than a high school education.

The economy will be helped if immigration policy can better reflect workforce needs. This is especially true during the coming years when there will be a substantial exodus in numbers and experience as baby boomers retire. And this is especially true in California where immigrants and their children are a larger share of the current and future workforce.

Beyond the important consideration of how to reform our immigration laws, policymakers must not neglect native-born citizens. They, similar to immigrants and their children, will also be filling many of the positions now held by baby boomers. Skill development for the entire workforce should be a priority. The urgency of our needs in this decade and the next requires that the economic implications of the generational transition in the workforce that has already begun should not be left to happenstance.

These findings come from a recent report by Dowell Myers and John Pitkin of the Population Dynamics Research Group at U.S.C. and myself.