04 September 2003

Workplace to provide hearing assistance in competition to attract employees

Businesses of the world: Look out for the upcoming worker shortage.

These times of trimming and downsizing is resulting in millions of lost jobs and all kinds of problems for new college graduates finding employment. But it is high time for many companies to prepare for severe worker shortages in the not so distant future.

Among the recommended steps to consider are the provision of extensive hearing health care coverage, information and sensitivity programs for hearing impaired employees and installation of user-friendly equipment such as telephones with volume controls.

Here is why: The 78 million Americans in the baby boomer generation born between 1946 and 1964 will start retiring within five years with the number of retirements peaking in 2015. This leaves millions of jobs to be filled by younger generations. The so-called generation X that followed the boomers comprises just 45 million and will have a hard time filling the gap. To further complicate the situation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting an increase of 22 million U.S. jobs by 2010.

Among those industries likely to be hit hardest by worker shortages are pharmaceutical, health care, aerospace, utility and old-line manufacturing companies, and others which grew in size decades ago and are now employing large baby boomer workforces.

The Kiplinger Business Forecasts recommends that planning for potential problems start now. But only one third of companies are following this advice. The rest fail to take stock of future needs. The needs will in many cases require that retirement-age workers be kept on the job, whether full-time or part-time. This is why many companies will find it necessary to focus attention on the needs of the oldest groups among their employees.

They will need larger computer screens and other accommodation of declining eyesight. And as workers between the ages of 45 and 64 are almost five times as likely to suffer from hearing loss as younger workers, the employers must gear up to help employees suffering from hearing loss, as well. This includes information and sensitivity campaigns to overcome the stigma attached to wearing hearing aids, and health coverage for expenses related to hearing aids.

Other steps to attract the workers of the future include flexible work hours and more flexible pay and benefit packages with an emphasis on short term as well as long term health care coverage, elder care and estate planning assistance.

Source: Kiplinger Business Forecast, 8th of May, 2003.

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