25. Specialization continues to spread throughout industry and the professions.
For doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other professionals, the size of the body of knowledge required to excel in any one area precludes excellence across all areas. The same principle applies to artisans. Witness the rise of post-and-beam homebuilders, old-house restorers, automobile electronics technicians, and mechanics trained to work on only one brand of car. Modern information-based organizations increasingly depend on teams of task-focused specialists. For hundreds of tasks, corporations increasingly turn to consultants and contractors who specialize more and more narrowly as markets globalize and technologies differentiate.
Assessment: This process will continue for at least another 20 years.
Implications: In an information age, each new level of specialization provides greater efficiencies, reducing the cost of doing business even as it creates new opportunities. This should continue to make global business more productive and profitable for so long as it continues.
This trend creates endless new niche markets to be served by small businesses and individual consultants. It also brings more career choices, as old specialties quickly become obsolete, but new ones appear even more rapidly.
Implications for hospitality and travel: Again, the Implications for these industries parallel the common experience: greater business efficiency and the rapid proliferation of small businesses designed to provide the best possible service to niche markets.
26. The traditional age of retirement is losing its significance.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data show that people are retiring earlier in the developed world. In 2004, less than 60 percent of the 54 to 60 age group in the OECD countries had a job. This varied from 50 percent in the earliest-retiring nations to 76 percent in the latest. According to Pew Research, as of 2006 the average American worker planned to retire at age 61 but actually did so at 57.8. These “retirements” may not be permanent. Americans in particular often return to work and delay complete retirement for several years. About one in five people, and 40 percent of seniors, say they plan to continue working until they die.
Assessment: In the United States, this trend will be complete in a generation. Where social safety nets are stronger, it is likely to continue through at least 2030.
Implications: Given the widespread shortage of retirement savings and investments, most Americans will delay retirement until they can no longer work, whether they wish to or not.
Since the penalty on earnings of Social Security recipients has been rescinded, more American retirees will return to work, and those not yet retired will be more likely to remain on the job.
This trend will spread to other industrialized countries as the retirement-age population grows and the number of active workers to support them declines.
People increasingly will work at one career, “retire” for a while (perhaps to travel) when they can afford it, return to school, begin another career, and so on in endless variations.
True retirement, a permanent end to work, will be delayed until very late in life.
By 2015, we expect the average retirement age in the United States to be delayed well into the 70s. Benefits may also continue their decline, and they will be given based on need, rather than as an entitlement. Even though the Social Security program has been the “third rail” of American politics, within five years, the retirement age will be moved back at least to 70 for early retirement and full benefits at 72.
Retirees will act as technical aides to teachers, especially in the sciences. In the long run, it may prove impossible to maintain the tradition of retirement, except through personal savings and investment.