Today I would like to follow up to last week’s post about the stubbornly low level of workforce participation in the USA.  This post was inspired by comments made by John Tepper Marlin who writes on public policy and economics over at In an update, Marlin muses further on why there is a low employment-to-population ratio in the US. He thinks that the following could be factors:

“Some married men are dropping out of the labor force, or reducing their hours, to allow their successful wives to devote themselves entirely to the stresses of the workplace.

Some working women are rethinking their priorities and are taking more time at home.

Baby boomers not tethered to the workplace because of the financial setbacks from the 2008 financial crisis are leaving so that they can start small businesses – which would take them off payrolls until they generate their own.

The competitive workplace is getting harder to enter and compete in, extending the time that young people spend in career-oriented studying.

As the workplace becomes more demanding, people who were accumulating wealth for its own sake are deciding they want to work fewer hours.

The Affordable Care Act means that some people who were uninsured no longer have to set aside as much of their income for health care, for themselves or their families.”

In an email conversation with me, John also noted that a research group LIMRA (website here) reported that half the people surveyed retired earlier than they had expected, half of those was because of layoffs or health problems. Of course, such early retirees would be adding to the proportion of the population not considered in the labour force.  John put forward some advice for “reluctant retirees”:

“Expect less money in a new job

Stay relevant in the tech arena or expect to become irrelevant,

Make a conscious effort to be tolerant of “diversity” (co-workers looking and behaving in ways you are not used to),

Stay healthy,

Try being your own employer (in which case you won’t show up on a payroll until you start paying yourself, and you won’t show up as looking for work, so you will appear to be not in the labor force but of course you are).”

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...