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Why Retaining Older Women in the Workforce Will Help the U.S. Economy

[email protected]: “In this opinion piece, researchers Amy Lui Abel and Diane Lim of The Conference Board explain why demographic and economic trends provide an opportunity for older women to expand their role in the labor market. Several female-dominated occupations — especially in health care services — face shortages that will only grow. But given the unique needs and circumstances of older women, realizing their full economic contribution will hinge on employers providing them with more flexible work environments. If companies do this, the greying of America could become an opportunity rather than a threat. Over the next decade America’s tight labor market will continue making headlines. The fundamental reason stems from retiring Baby Boomers outpacing the number of younger workers entering the workforce.To help the country’s labor supply better meet demand, keeping the present workforce engaged in work would go a long way. Retaining every cohort matters. But U.S. businesses should put particular focus on retaining older women. Now and even more so in the future, increasing their participation would create substantial economic opportunity. To realize that opportunity, more companies should consider making flexible work arrangements a staple of their employee recruitment and engagement strategy. Of all the population groups participating in America’s workforce, women 55 and older represent the single fastest growing age-gender segment. That group alone will account for more than a third – nearly 3.6 million – of all additional workers entering the labor force over the next decade (2016-2026). But securing robust participation from older women depends on employers offering employment conditions that reflect their circumstances. As an example, for some older women maximizing income is not the primary goal of working in their later years. Many have high levels of education. And with their childcare responsibilities reduced now that their children have grown, they are ready to take on or continue holding a job – but not just any job. For them, a work arrangement that offers flexibility with an engaging environment can represent a more attractive alternative than outright retirement.”

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