Demographic Trends – The U.K. Workforce…..Brewing Risks

The UK is a country of 60.6 million citizens that has fallen into the trap along with most other developed countries.  Its population growth has fallen below replacement levels.  The U.K.’s current fertility rate of 1.8 births is below the the replacement rate of 2.1.  At this point, the U.K., like its counter parts in Central and Eastern Europe need to brace for an on-coming set of workforce issues.



U.K. Demographics.


The 2006 U.K. labor force is about 30.3 million workers, roughly the same size as the combined labor forces of California and Texas.  Four workforce risks are visible in the attached age distribution chart.


Age & Retirement Risks

With a workforce where one in four is 50 years of age and older, employers are susceptible to both age and retirement risks (Circle 1).  Age risk is the potential productivity loss associated with an older worker and is a function of the worker and the job.  Retirement risk is the potential loss of an employee to retirement.  With 26% of the population in the 50+ category, employers need to move quickly to counter the effects of productivity changes and retirements.


Generational Friction

Generational friction is a term used to describe situations resulting from the differences in behaviors and styles among different generations.  With such a disparity in workforce numbers between the aging boomers and the younger Gen Y workers (Circle 2), I anticipate in some situations significant friction because of the dramatic differences in these generations.  The “new guard” is not always interested in following the ways of the “old guard.”


Vacancy Risks

Vacancy risks are a function of labor supply and demand and capture the potential of an open position going unstaffed (Circle 3).  It is expected that a portion of the entry and mid-level positions will go unstaffed in the coming years because of the low percentage of workers in the 16 to 34 age groups.  These vacancy risks will result from not only from labor supply challenges but also from labor demand issues as companies increase turnover by poaching their competition.



If the U.K., like the U.S., was surprised by the effects of oil shortages, then it needs to begin preparing for the next economic asset shortage its eroding workforce.  Beginning with a workforce plan that focuses on alternative career paths, automation, collaboration would be a step towards mitigating the ensuing risks.


8 Responses

  1. Generation friction is an interesting term, however I am curious to get your thoughts on the possible mitigating impact of an increasing level of shareholder scrutiny and the greater general awareness of generational differences on the concept of generational friction.

    Will shareholders force upper management to adapt their style to suite the newer generations?

  2. My apologies for the delay – I took a much needed summer break.

    Yes, I think eventually, shareholders will force management to adapt their style, but only when that style is at the core of missed revenue and profit projections.

    At this point, the issue moves from being an HR domain issue to a business issue. Once it becomes a business issues – affecting revenues and profits, will shareholders have the ability to drive management change.

    What do you think?

  3. […] Computing, 2 Apr 2009 • Flexible working rights extended, UK Directgov newsroom, 3 Apr 2009 • Demographic Trends – The U.K. Workforce…..Brewing Risks Eric Seubert, Talent Readiness, 23 Jun 2008 • Flexibility – Resources for New Ways of Working […]

  4. Have you ever seen somebody lick the chutney spoon in an Indian Restaurant and put it back? This would never have happened under the Tories.

    • Hey Cyberman, I’ve not only seen people licking a chutney spoon in an Indian restuarant, I have literally seen people licking cocks before placing them back in, in some Indian restaurants. Seriously.

  5. I have to question where you got that graph depicting the age-groups of the UK workforce? I can’t find any United Labour Stats International website.

    I’m mostly pointing this out because I wanted to quote such a statistic (26% 50+) in an essay, but I obviously need a viable source reference.

  6. Just where did you acquire the ideas to post ““Demographic Trends – The U.
    K. Workforce..Brewing Risks Talent Readiness”?
    Many thanks -Kerrie

  7. […] private sector even without boom-level growth. Don’t believe me? The UK workforce of 30,000,000 from 1988-2008 lost around 2.2m jobs a year, so an extra 300,000 is neither here nor there. Except […]

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