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Three Workforce Trends

Demography isn’t just about counting up the population. More importantly, it’s about understanding the forces driving societal change. Can we deduce, for example, how immigration is affecting us, what millennials are like, and who will constitute the construction workforce of the future? Let’s try.


Three demographic trends taken from recent Pew Research Center findings have a bearing, I believe, on who you’ll hire in the next few decades. Yes, this is long-term American demographics, and changes don’t come overnight. But, now is the time to get in sync with them. Think about the implications these broad-based trends will have on your company’s future recruiting practices and work policies.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity

In the past 50 years, nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the United States. Today, 14 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born versus just 5 percent in 1965. In 50 years, the United States will not have a single racial or ethnic majority—14 percent of the country will be Asian, 24 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black and 46 percent white.


“American attitudes about immigration and diversity are supportive of these changes for the most part,” Pew Research Center notes. “More Americans say immigrants strengthen the country than say they burden it.”


After rising steadily since 1990, the unauthorized immigrant population has leveled off in recent years at about 11.3 million. Between 2009 and 2014, for example, more Mexicans went home than arrived in the United States. Asians are now the only major racial or ethnic group whose immigrant numbers are rising. African immigrants have doubled every decade since 1970, but their numbers are still relatively small.


Diversity will certainly affect your future workforce—it may already have for those of you on the coasts. Who are you going to woo for entry level positions? How will you go about hiring craftspeople and managers? How will racial and ethnic diversity impact your HR policies and company culture? Some things to think about.

Millennials: Upbeat and Diversified

As America’s largest generation, millennials (ages 18 to 34) are a force to be reckoned with. They represent, however, a confusing mix of attitudes and habits.


On the one hand, they’re upbeat and positive. Eight out of 10 millennials say they either currently have enough money to lead the lives they want or expect to have that money in the future. On the other hand, many millennials struggle with unemployment, low levels of wealth in comparison to other generations and high levels of student debt. At least they’re on track to becoming the most educated American generation ever.


Surveys about how millennials think of themselves show that they’re much less inclined than older adults to self-identify as either patriotic persons or as environmentalists. Many millennials remain politically unaffiliated. Many live at home—and presumably seek work near the homes they’re tethered to. Certainly, they’re the most racially diverse generation in American history: Forty-three percent of millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation. What will it take to hire them?

Women as Breadwinners

The labor force participation rate for American women has risen steadily since the 1960s. In 2011, mothers were the sole or primary breadwinner in a record 40 percent of all households with children. The gender pay gap has narrowed over this period of time, especially for young women entering the labor force, though the gap persists.


Women still make up a small share of the nation’s business leaders relative to men, but that’s changing. The share of women in top leadership jobs has risen. The American family is changing as a result. Dads are doing more housework and child care, while moms are doing more paid work outside the home. While Americans say women are every bit as capable of being good leaders as men, four in 10 believe women placed in leadership roles are held to higher standards than their male counterparts. What do you say? Are opportunities for women available with your company?


These are big trends and big topics. What are you doing about them? Are you steering your business so as to capitalize on evolving American demographics? You have time to make changes. Just don’t wait too long to act.

Mark L. Johnson writes regularly about population trends. He tweets at @markjohnsoncomm and connects at

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