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4 generations

The composition of the labour force has changed drastically over the last few years. In the upcoming years the average age of the population will keep rising. The average age of the labour force is 39.8 and climbing. Soon, more than half the labour force will be over 40. Despite the currently growing unemployment, structurally, there is a deficiency at the labour market to keep on doing all of the work. So if you can see though the economic crisis, you must realise that in the next couple of years the deficiency will increase in many industries.

To map out the labour force, we can divide them into four groups: the traditional, the baby-boomers, generation X, and the millennial.

The traditional is the group born between 1925 and 1945. This group has a characteristic that they are loyal workers. Most of this generation have already gone on early retirement or pension. The Dutch labour force is hardly used to use the expertise and knowledge of this group. Because of this, this group has been put on the side-line, also to help the younger generations find jobs. In some other countries, like the USA, a part of this group is still active in the social life. These are mainly the people who worked at an executive level. This group loves discipline, hard work and are used to saving most of their income.

Then there are the baby-boomers. They were born from 1946 to 1964. This group has the characteristic of being money-driven, used to work long hours. We can also see that this group has trouble balancing out their work-life ratio. This group also often struggles to understand the generation X, who place a lot of value on that. The baby-boom generation is materialistically speaking a rich generation. They often have created goodwill on their properties. A part of this group has left work on early retirement.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1977. This group consists of experienced internet 1.0 users. They use sites like eBay and This group also gets the description of job-hoppers. They put a lot of emphasis on the work-life balance (terms like daddy day were created by this generation). This generation often has personal experiences with the career problems of their parents, because it was the baby-boomers who experienced the first large firings. Generation X is internationally oriented and multi-culturally tolerant, but at the same time not really interested in politics.

Millennials were born between 1978 and 1989. This group of young professionals is the internet 2.0 and 3.0 generation. They are always online on their laptops or mobile phones. Social networks are integrated into their lives. This generation is a heavy user of Hyves, Twitter and blogs. They keep both digital and physical friendships. Almost all of the large companies are trying to figure out how to reach this group in the upcoming years. They are following the social networks with more than average interest. This generation is used to working on their own terms and are used to integrating high tech into their lives. They are pragmatic and hard working, multitaskers who are not afraid to take on multiple tasks at the same time without the stress this causes for the other generations. They are socially involved. The environment, charity and working in a socially responsible manner are like a second nature to them. They are often politically interested. In the USA the same generation is also called the ‘Obama generation’. Lastly they have grown up multi culturally, especially in the four large cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.

I find that companies often still use the career pattern: the eldest is the manager. The generations below will execute the tasks. And I think that that is a missed opportunity. I come round good people from the millennials generation who can handle a lot more responsibility. I have had good experiences the last few years, with baby-boomers in the executive roles. They were almost always positive. An employee of the baby-boom generation who doesn’t get sick much and works faster because of the experience they have. This is why I hope that we can let go of the traditional ideas on careers. This will work for both employee and company!


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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