CommunityNewsPeopleRon Baker

Workforce Aging Forces Us to Reconsider

By Ron Baker

As a baby boomer, when I was in my teens, I loved the various predictions I heard (some might have called them conspiracy theories). This was a half century ago! Of particular interest was the doom and gloom around the aging out of boomers and the “sudden” need for replacements when they came to retirement age.

We are here now! The predictions are not far off. The job market in Canada is at a crisis point according to some researchers. As a partial approach to a solution our governments have taken on a tiered immigration approach. Find the best leaders, the best trained, the most wealthy and invite them to Canada. Apparently we can’t sustain our workforce internally.

Which makes me wonder where all the babies went? Embedded in those predictions from a half century ago was the recognition that a following generation would not be as eager to have progeny. Statistics have borne that out. A single child family is not an unusual thing.

Let me get personal. I am a “retired” pastor. My official title is “official worker emeritus”. I’ve watched the personnel crisis within the Canadian Christian church. To illustrate this, here is a statistic from a smaller Canadian church denomination called the Apostolic Church of Pentecost. 53% of the pastors are over 60. 15% are 40 or younger. If, in the next few years, retirement (and just the vagaries of aging) take away these older workers, who will provide the work force to cover the church leadership vacuum?

In my own studies of the church and in networking conversations, I am coming across a growing trend towards multivocational pastors. The church has and will become a gig economy employer. Pastors will have the church as their side-hustle amongst other employments.

If you haven’t heard, side-hustles are a thing in our working world. For an increasingly distracted population, the side-hustle can provide another “needed” distraction from boredom. For an increasingly inflationary-disturbed population, the side-hustle can help hold off poverty. These are surviving techniques, not thriving techniques.

Can we pinpoint the cause of these stifling labour shortages?

Pandemic stress levels and mental health issues? An aging work force? A population that has not pro-created extensively? Baby boomers who still think they will live and work forever, but aren’t?

More than a half century ago another solution was presenting itself in similar circumstances. Institutions were starting to think in terms of restructuring. Or reforming. Or rethinking.

Fifty years later let’s keep up that inquiry. What will a church look like in the future? What will a coffee shop look like in the future? What will home repair look like in the future? What will health care (and health care facilities) look like in the future?

While a workforce ages out we have a great opportunity.

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