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66th IFLA Council and General
|Australia||Western Australia||Shire of Swan|
|NUMBER OF BABY BOOMERS|
|Total Number of Baby Boomers||4,233,310||418,356||16,235|
|Number of Baby Boomers %||23.65%||24.23%||24%|
|PLACE OF BIRTH|
|PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH|
|Speaks only English||82%||86%||81%|
|Speaks another Language & English Well/Very Well||13%||10%||14%|
|Speaks another Language & English not at all well||2.5%||1.5%||2.5%|
|In Labour Force||78%||79%||78%|
|Not in Labour Force||18%||18%||24%|
|Employed as Managers, Administrators, Assoc Professionals||24%||25%||20.9%|
|Employed as Clericals, Tradespersons, Service Workers, Production, Sales & Labourers||54%||54.5%||63.7%|
|Employed as Professionals||20%||18.5%||12.8%|
|Weekly income $200-$599||22%||19.8%||23.4%|
|Weekly income $600-$999||25.8%||25.4%||30.9%|
|Weekly income $1000-$1,999||27.7%||29%||26.4%|
|Weekly income $2000||7.2%||7.2%||3%|
|Bachelor/Postgrad Dip/Higher Degree||15%||13%||8%|
|Undergrad Diploma/Associate Diploma||8%||8%||7%|
Educational statistics have been based on unpublished tables of the 1996 Census of Population and Housing prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
From Table 1 it is evident that there are a great number of Baby Boomers whether at the national, state or local levels and many have been born overseas. Proficiency of the English language is high and almost half are employed in professional capacities and the other half in trades and other employment.
Educational levels are high and after a further breakdown of the statistics it became evident that there was little difference between the number of 'leading' edge Boomers (those born between 1946-1955) in Australia and Western Australia with higher educational levels than those of the 'trailing' edge group (those born between 1956-1961).
Of the 'leading' edge Baby Boomers in Australia 8.4% had attained a Higher degree, Postgraduate diploma or Bachelor degree and 4.8% either an Undergraduate diploma or Associate diploma. By comparison 6.3% of the 'trailing' edge Boomers had achieved either a Higher degree, Postgraduate diploma or Bachelor degree and 3.2% an Undergraduate or an Associate diploma. In Western Australia 7.6% of the 'leading' edge Boomers had achieved higher degrees, with 5% having an Undergraduate or Associate diploma. For the 'trailing' edge Boomers 5.6% had achieved a Higher degree, Postgraduate diploma or Bachelor degree and 3.3% an Undergraduate or an Associate diploma. In the Shire of Swan the results for the 'leading' edge Boomers highlighted that 4.5% had achieved Higher degrees and 3.9% an Undergraduate and Associate diploma. As for the 'trailing' edge Boomers 3.4% had achieved Higher degrees and 3.1% an Undergraduate or Associate diploma.
A comparative analysis was undertaken of the overall tertiary education levels in Western Australia for the years 1938 and 1948.This information was based on statistics from the relevant Statistical Registers of Western Australia. Students who were born in 1920 would have entered university in 1938 when only 727 persons were enrolled in degree courses out of a population of 460,161. This equated to 0.15% of the population. In 1948 when those born in the 1930's would have been attending higher education institutions only 1,950 persons of a population of 522,330 were enrolled in degree courses (0.37%). Within the same periods of time only 108 degrees were conferred in 1938 and 176 in 1948. Despite the low higher educational levels within these years, some of this age group could however have obtained Higher degrees later in life.
In general these statistical results emphasise the fact that there are a greater number of those born between 1946 -1961 with higher educational levels than those of previous generations.
The Baby Boomer generation has often been referred to the as the 'breakthrough', 'me' and 'stress' generation with a host of other terms used by astute marketers referring to the ageing segment of this generation as grey power and ABENS (Asset Backed Empty Nesters). In America there are about 76 million Boomers, which represents 29% of the population. In Australia, there are over four million Boomers representing 24% of the population.
The immediate questions that do arise are - What has influenced this generation; what are the characteristics of the generation and is it a homogenous group of individuals or are there major differences? Born after the Second World War, the "pig in the demographer's python" the Boomers are now in their "Boom" period. Baby Boomers are individuals who grew up in the second half of the 1940's, the 1950's and the very early 1960's. The period is often recorded as between 1946-1961. Some demographers particularly in the US refer to the period between 1946 -1964. For the purposes of this paper the period 1946 - 1961 has been selected. The term 'post-war baby boom' refers to the increase in births when Australian servicemen returned home from World War II. The birth rate rose to record levels, creating the generation that came to be known as the Baby Boomers.
The Baby Boomers are almost notorious as being the first generation not only to challenge the mores of the past, but also to have actually fundamentally changed and transformed them. Rock music, drugs and free love may all be part of today's generation, but it was the Boomers who lead the way and made the new the norm. As a group in general terms, market research has shown that the Boomers are demanding and do expect value for money, quality products and convenience. Time is of the essence for this consumer group.
They strive to remain youthful and mentally young and view retirement as an active period of their life. Their interest in health , fitness, looking young and attractive and longevity is quite phenomenal. There are in fact many parallels with the teenage market.
They can expect to live longer due to medical advances however stress and burnout could impact on this expectation of longevity. They are well educated, thirsty for information interested in travel and will want to stay involved in the political processes. In addition they are optimistic, forward thinking and undoubtedly redefine old age. This is the Great Expectations generation, the pioneers of the new aged. Indeed their needs, interests and values will determine both social and fiscal policy and shape the political agenda well into the 21st Century.
One of the most valuable contributions to an understanding of the Baby Boomers from an Australian perspective is the work of social psychologist Hugh Mackay. His publication 'Generations: Baby Boomers, their parents and their children' is the outcome of many years of research and the work focuses on the characteristics of the Baby Boomer group in particular the Leading Edge group (born 1946-1955) in the Australian context. Mackay refers to the Baby Boomers ('Leading' edge) as the 'Stress' Generation, their parents the 'Lucky' Generation and their children the 'Options' Generation.
In their quest for the personal happiness that this generation had been led to expect due to the timing of their birth, Mackay is reported to have stated, as summarised by TeamWorks Australia in their publication "Baby Boomer Research Top Up" that the Boomers have:
Both Mackay and Carol Davis another Australian leader in research relating to the financial status of the Baby Boomers, identify two distinct groups among the Baby Boomers as the 'leading' edge and the 'trailing' edge. Davis has described the former group as those who took advantage of the boom after the Second World War, who own their own homes and have few debts. Their children have either left, or are progressively leaving home. If a two-income family, they have a higher disposable income than their young counterparts and as a group are powerful both economically and politically. The 'trailing' edge boomers have been described as not having the same opportunities as their senior counterparts and as a result of a depressed economy particularly after the 1987 stock market crash have experienced financial difficulties. They do not own their own home outright and are still educating their children. (TeamWorks Australia 1998, p5)
TeamWorks Australia identifies the work of Warner who cites a study conducted by the University of Michigan, which also indicated that the two halves of the Baby Boomer generation are quite different, particularly in their saving and spending patterns. This study concluded that the more senior Baby Boomers have become quite careful and thrifty as they approach retirement. Their junior counterparts have adopted those spending habits associated with the Boomers directly after the Second World War.
Warner in the same article refers to additional work by The Strategy Group which recommends that marketers should consider their target markets in terms of 'cohort groupings' rather than broad age categories that cross generations. This concept relies on common behavioural trends in other words, people born around the same time (a 'cohort') will share many similar and long lasting attitudes about life, formed in youth and adulthood. (TeamWorks Australia 1998, p5)
The AMR: Quantum Harris and advertising agency McCann - Ericson surveyed 700 Baby Boomers, followed by 60 in -depth interviews and compared their views and outlook with 1300 older and younger "non-Boomers". The outcome of this study revealed that about half the Baby Boomer population was financially comfortable and relatively content and satisfied with their lives. The other half did not respond in the same way.
This survey sought the following information:
The following outcomes have been compared with the responses of the 54+ age group:
Self Service Options
Purpose for Using the Libraries
Boomers 54+ Recreation 58%, 78% General interest 17.5%, 13.4% Formal study 15%, 2.2%
Prioritisation of Future Services/Needs
Personal Computer and Internet Access
It is interesting to note that the 54+ also listed remote access to the library from home as one of the highest priorities and yet only 17% had the connection to facilitate this remote access. This may be clarified by the following comment. As this priority question relating to remote access to the library was a ranked question, it is not possible to determine whether this group would actually use this service. Hence their response may have been based on the fact this facility was a good idea or that it was a current trend and would be an expectation for the future.
Value to Customer of Services and Resources
The priorities of the 54+ group were:
Now to the burning question - Will the Baby Boomers as a generation impact on public library services and resources?
Demographics have shown that by the years 2011-2021 the Boomers will join the ranks of the mature market (the term seniors or aged will undoubtedly be heavily debated and denied by this group). This impact will be encountered by all service providers, including public libraries. As this group ages or matures it is inevitable that the impact for public libraries will be on seniors' services and the viability of catering to the needs of this diverse age group which comprises a high proportion of ethnicity.
Based on the 1996 Census the 65+ age group in Western Australia equated to 14% of the population. In 1996 24% of the population were Baby Boomers. Within the years 2011 and 2021 the former group will join the more inactive and frail aged group and the Baby Boomers will enter the 65 + age group. Together these two groups will pose a real challenge to public library service providers as they both compete for very diverse services.
The following statements offer potential scenarios for future library services for the ageing Baby Boomers. The objective of the statements is to awaken awareness and provoke further thoughts for discussion:
From the literature (Theoretical Evidence) it is clear that the Baby Boomers are of a different generation with quite contrasting needs and expectations to those of previous generations. The importance of theoretical evidence cannot be underestimated. The particular use or value of theory depends on at least two factors: the validity of the theory and what the theory is used for. Indeed, practitioners often dismiss theory, however research or theoretical foundations are critical to practical success.
For this paper the theory, based on written evidence of extensive statistical, market, social and historical research by well reputed authors and Government agencies provided
Australian Bureau of Statistics.(1996). Unpublished data. 1996 census of population and housing. Perth, Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Australian Management Development and Research Centre. (1999) Library services survey unpublished data. Midland, Shire of Swan.
Kahlert, M. (2000). The impact of the baby boomers on public libraries - myth or reality? Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services,13(1)pp25-40.
MacKay, H. (1997). Generations: Baby Boomers, their parents and their children. Sydney, Macmillan.
McCann-Erickson &AMR:Quantum Harris. (1997). Where have all the flowers gone? Baby Boomers today. Sydney, Nexus Quantum.
Office of Seniors Interests. (1998). Time on our side: a five year plan for Western Australia's maturing population. Perth, Office of Seniors Interests.
Statistical register of Western Australia for 1937-1938.(1939).Perth, Government Printer.
Statistical register of Western Australia for 1947-1948.(1949). Perth, Government Printer.
TeamWorks Australia.(1998).Baby boomers research top up. Floreat Park, Western Australian Ministry of Sport and Recreation.