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Government's Millennial Workforce Problem

Even as it looks to younger people to help it evolve, the public sector is lagging behind the private sector in hiring them.

Government tech shops have long grappled with an aging workforce and how to recruit more young people to work in their offices.

In recent years, the search for younger talent has taken on something of a different tone as governments talk about dramatic changes to the way they handle things like procurement and cloud adoption. As agencies look to technology to change the way they do business, they inevitably run into conversations about changing an office culture based around the old way of doing things — the foundation of which is often rooted in older workers who have been doing things the same way for years.

Conversations about just how to bring in more young people aside, the Center for Digital Government* has brought together some data to begin to understand the problem. Drawing on 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the center was able to compare the makeup of the public-sector workforce to the private sector.

Looking at three generations of workers — defined using the Pew Research Center’s birth year ranges for those generations — the center found the starkest gap in the millennial bracket. This youngest group of workers made up 27 percent of the public sector workforce, compared with 38 percent for the private sector.

More detail is in the graphic above.

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.