In an important story in The Hartford Courant today, we find not only that Connecticut is going to grow steadily older, but also that younger workers are increasingly likely to be black, Hispanic or Asian.
West Hartford economist Ron Van Winkle — a great guy to have on the town payroll, by the way — makes some astute observations, which are entirely relevant to the debate raging in our town.
“We’re losing the baby boomers … and there’s no one to replace them,” Van Winkle said. “We need to take the people we have and make sure they get well-educated.”
Van Winkle said that the scarcity of workers might force some employers – especially those rooted to the state, such as state and local governments – to raise wages to attract workers from elsewhere. “Other companies may decide, `We can’t grow here,’ and move,” he said.
Older workers might help mitigate some of the economic harm, Van Winkle said. Assuming that work life ends at 64 has become “outmoded” in recent years, he said, for a variety of reasons: People are healthier for longer; the stock market collapse of 2001 eroded retirement savings; concerns about Social Security might lead some people to delay retirement.
If we’re going to need to rely on a smaller workforce that includes many urban minorities, we’d better make damn sure they have the education they need to soar in the world to come. We quite literally can’t afford to do anything else. A relentless focus on the mill rate may hold down property taxes a bit, but the price of doing it is to shortchange us all in the decades to come. Shorting education would be an act of collective stupidity.