It has never been more important in the workplace to know your stuff than it is today. The premium is on intellectual capital—and age ceases to be a disadvantage with this trend, as intellectual capital over time becomes experiential capital (know how, know who, know the best way to get it done).

A recent article in the Economist, entitled “A Billion Shades Of Grey,” cited the trend that in the next 20 years the global population of those 65 and older will grow from 600 million to 1.1 billion and predicts that the issue here isn’t going to be about working retirees versus idle retirees but about the growing gap between the skilled and unskilled, regardless of age.

The editorial stated, “Rapid innovation has raised the incomes of the highly skilled while squeezing those of the unskilled.” Predictions are that the rich countries with well-educated populations will find the burden of age less taxing than places like China where half of the 50- to 64-year-old population completed school at the primary level.

Employment rates are falling among young, unskilled workers while they are rising among the older skilled set. Pay has risen sharply for the highly educated and specifically skilled. “Are you gainfully employed?” is a question today that is less hinged to age and more hinged to skill level.

In the advent of the “Skills Age,” competence will trump one’s date of birth. Sixty-five percent of American men age 62 to 74 with a professional degree are in the workforce, compared with 32 percent of those with only a high school diploma. It is the well-qualified that are extending their working lives. But it is not just the fact that they are skilled, but also that they are intellectually engaged in their work.

I recently talked with a gentleman who went to work in a processing plant after high school and has worked there for more than 35 years. He told me, “I’m retiring in 13 days.”