Labour shortage expected

Baby boomers, the generation born from 1946-1965, are approaching retirement age and swelling the ranks of the country’s aging population, according to the 2006 census numbers.

Nearly one of every three Canadians is a boomer, with the oldest of them more than 60 and the youngest no longer in their thirties. The country’s fastest growing demographic is the 55 – 64 age group. This represents 3.7 million people – a 28 per cent rise from five years ago.

The census also reports a record 4.3 million seniors (those 65 and over) – or 1 out of 7 Canadians.

In contrast, the under-15 demographic shrunk to just 17.7 per cent of the population, down from 18.8 per cent five years earlier.

Within a decade, seniors could actually outnumber children younger than 15, Statistics Canada said.

Shrinking work force
The country’s increased life expectancy combined with a declining birth rate, means that the work force is aging so quickly that there are barely enough young people to replace workers about to retire. And in 10 years, retirees are likely to outnumber newcomers to the work force, Statistics Canada has warned.

“This presents considerable challenges for Canadian employers and for society in general,” the report said.

Yet this comes at a time when one-third of seniors and baby boomers are worried they’ll outlive their bank accounts, according to a recent poll by Decima Research. Further, half the workers over 60 say they’re working because they need the money.

“The Boomers need to stay working – and businesses need them to stay competitive,” says David Cravit, Senior Vice President, Marketing, for the 50Plus Group, Canada’s dominant Internet portal for Boomers and seniors (and owners of this web site).

“Businesses are starting to pay more attention to the tremendous loss of knowledge and experience that they suffer when an older work retires,” he adds. “It isn’t just a matter of finding a qualified replacement – there could be years of lost productivity, because the younger worker just doesn’t have the same amount of knowledge and judgment.”

The new retirement in Canada
The new retirement in Canada may, in fact, mean no retirement. According to Statistics Canada, more than 300,000 Canadians 65 or older worked in 2001. Of these 57 per cent were 65-69; 26 per cent were 70-74; and 17 per cent were 75 or older.

And these numbers are rapidly on the rise, according to experts. The explanation has to do mostly with money, but not entirely. A recent TD Waterhouse study found that two-thirds of people polled who have not retired experience financial stress due to uncertainty or lack of money.

But the remaining third did not cite financial concerns as a reason for staying in the workforce past the traditional retirement age of 65 – but choice.

Whether because of financial necessity or a need to remain engaged, the redefinition of retirement by the baby boom generation can only be good news for an economy facing a shrinking workforce with fewer younger workers to fill the gap.

“Companies are waking up to the need to retain older workers – whether on a full-time or more flexible basis,” Cravit says. “And this coincides with the needs of Boomers to keep earning.”

For more on the Statistics Canada report on the census: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex, 2006 Census.