As baby boomers age, demand for public services will increase. By 2025 -- 13 years from now when many of us will be living in retirement on fixed incomes -- consultancy Accenture estimates that government at all levels -- from municipalities on up -- will have to spend an additional $940 billion annually to pay for the services that an aging population will require.
This increase is coming at a time when governments are responding to the demand to control taxes by cutting back on personnel. In my neck of the woods that has already meant shortened hours, longer waits, fewer services and a general grumpiness among our public servants. Apparently I'm not the only one who has experienced this. Accenture surveyed people ages 50 to 64 and found that about 70 percent said they were dissatisfied with government services, with only 27 percent saying that they believed that government is capable of delivering services that meet their needs and expectations.
If you plan to rely soon on Social Security and Medicare, this is a significant retirement planning dilemma. Fortunately, Accenture has an easy fix. It calculates that if the level of public sector productivity rose just 1 percent, the entire problem -- about $1 trillion cumulative -- would go away.
I mentioned this to the guy behind the counter at the post office this morning, and he told me that I didn't know what I was talking about. That he was already being asked to do twice as much as he used to do, and how much could one body actually accomplish?
Using technology and the increased efficiency that it brings, public employees will be able to accomplish a lot more than they do now, says Brian Moran, global director for Accenture's Delivering Public Service for the Future program. "Shift the management model to reward productivity," says Moran. "Integrate good technology and self service into the process."
Moran doesn't see this as revolutionary. He says it simply requires bringing how the public sector operates more in line with what is already happening in the private sector. "It is only 1 percent. It is just getting on track a little bit," he says, "but it offers tremendous financial potential."