We’ve been talking about it for a while, and now The Economist is discussing what impact aging populations will have on the world – what The Economist describes as “a slow burning fuse”.  Even though the economic crisis has taken focus of aging as an issue, the article clearly paints the major challenge looming for countries and organizations, especially in the developed world.  The image at left shows clearly just how much more economic impact this demographic change has than the current “crisis”. 

During discussions at the HCI Workforce Planning conference recently, one attendee stated that the economic crisis makes things riskier from a retirement perspective – now, rather than seeing older worker retirement patterns steadily impact as though down a sloping hill, the practitioner expressed concern that many would stay until an economic uptick, and then organizations would see exits more like plunging off a cliff.  This is a real threat to knowledge and skill transition, and to business continuity, especially where the potential retirees are heavily concentrated in management.  But still people use the economic cycle as an excuse to not worry…yet The Economist article clearly illustrates why we should still worry:

This is a slow-moving but relentless development that in time will have vast economic, social and political consequences. As yet, only a few countries with already-old populations are starting to notice the effects. But labor forces are now beginning to shrink and numbers of pensioners are starting to rise. By about 2020 ageing will be plain for all to see. And there is no escape: barring huge natural or man-made disasters, demographic changes are much more certain than other long-term predictions (for example, of climate change). Every one of the 2 billion people who will be over 60 in 2050 has already been born.

How far away is the impact of these retirements on your workforce?  Are you modeling potential impacts in your strategic workforce planning?  What ARE you doing about it?