Knowledge Center

Currently, the demographics of the labor force span four generations. These generations are the Mature/World War II Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y/Millennials. In addition to the many differences among individuals within generational cohorts, organizations must contend with differences between generations, such as in core attitudes toward work. Technology has also changed the work environment and influenced job performance, communication, and office dynamics. A multigenerational labor force has important implications for organizations concerning diverse perspectives, priorities, and work styles.1

 

The Four Generations in the United States and Canada in the Workforce

  • Mature/World War II Generation (Workers born before 1946) 2
  • Baby Boomers (1946 – 1965) 3
  • Generation X (1966 – 1980) 4
  • Generation Y/Millennials (1981 – 2000) 5

These generation labels are primarily used in the United States and Canada. Other regions throughout the world use some of these labels, though the ages of their members of these groups tend to differ.

 

Overview of the Generations

This section describes the state of each generation within the workforce as well as characteristics – and common stereotypes (which are not always true) – of generation members.

Mature/World War II Generation Members of the Mature/WWII Generation (born before 1946) are 67 years or older. Although most members have retired from the labor force, they comprise a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience. Many believe this generation views work as an obligation: they respect authority, take rational approaches, and produce quality work.6
Baby Boomers Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) are approximately between the ages of 47 and 66. The older members have begun to retire from the labor force. This generation occupies most of the senior-level management roles. They are often stereotyped as extremely focused on work, and they possess a strong work ethic and desire recognition for their efforts.7
Generation X Generation X (born between 1966 and 1980) is approximately between the ages of 32 and 46. The oldest members could be entering senior-level management roles while the younger members entering/approaching mid-career and senior-level supervisory roles.8 Many members of Generation X embrace diversity9 and entrepreneurship.10
Generation Y/Millennial Generation Y or the Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000) are approximately between the ages of 12 and 31. The older members are in the labor force while the younger members are still completing their formal education. This generation is known for being optimistic and goal-oriented: they are known for enjoying collaboration and multitasking, are comfortable embracing emerging technologies, and appreciate meaningful work.11

 

Canada

Population

 

  • As of 2011, Canada’s total population was 34,482,779.12
    • The median age as of May 2012 is 41 years.13
  • The breakdown of the Canadian population by generation is:
    • Mature/WWII Generation: 4,973,43814
    • Baby Boomers: 9,811,33515
    • Generation X: 7,035,20816
    • Generation Y/Millennials: 8,917,61217

 

 

Labour Force

 

  • In March 2012, there were 17,148,200 people in the Canadian Labour Force (ages 15 and older).18
  • Total labor force participation by generation:
    • Mature/WWII Generation: 1,140,10019
    • Baby Boomers: 6,858,50020
    • Generation X: 5,609,70021
    • Generation Y/Millennials: 4,113,10022

 

 

United States

Population

 

  • As of May 1, 2012, U.S. total population: 313,465,023.23
  • In 2010, the median age was 37.2.24
  • The approximate number of people by generation as of 2010:25*?
    • Mature/WWII Generation: 40,267,98426
    • Baby Boomers: 81,489,44527
    • Generation X: 61,032,70528
    • Generation Y/Millennials: 85,405,38529

 

 

Labor Force

 

  • As of March 2012, there were 154,316,000 people in the civilian labor force.30
  • Total approximate labor force participation by generation:
    • Mature/WWII Generation: 7,676,00031
    • Baby Boomers: 59,893,00032
    • Generation X: 49,433,00033
    • Generation Y/Millennials: 31,927,00034

 

 

*Note: Total number does not add up to 100%; while there might be members of other generations in this workforce, this Quick Take is focusing on these four dominant generations in the workforce.

±Note: Includes those of workplace age (i.e., does not include children)

ΣNote: For the purposes of ease with age in this Quick Take, for U.S., the ages were, at time of data collection: 66 and older for Mature/WWII, 46-65 for Baby Boomers, 31-45 for Generation Xers, and 11-30 for Generation Y/Millenials. This is based on 2011 population.

 

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Generations in the Workplace in the United States & Canada. New York: Catalyst, 2012.