Report on the Labour Force Participation of Seniors and Near Seniors, and Intergenerational Relations


Canada’s population is aging. In 2009, 13.9% of the population was 65 or over. By 2036, it is projected that nearly one in four (23 to 25%) Canadians will be a senior.Footnote 1 Due to increases in life expectancy, decreased fertility rates, and the aging of the largest age group, the baby boomersFootnote 2, Canada is experiencing an unprecedented demographic shiftFootnote 2.

The demographic shift will impact the economy and labour force as the baby boomers begin to retire in great numbers. As many seniors and near seniors leave the workforce, Canada’s elderly dependency ratioFootnote 2 will rise, national income tax revenue will decrease, and more and more retirees will have to be supported by relatively fewer workers in the population. This raises questions as to future economic well-being and average living standards of the population as well as concerns for the fiscal health and fiscal environment of government budgets.Footnote 3 As more and more Canadians exit the labour force, businesses may also suffer from labour shortages, reduced productivity levels, losses of experienced and skilled employees, and lost corporate memory and organizational leadership talent.

In terms of addressing the challenges brought on by an aging population, older Canadians represent an invaluable resource. The continued participation of seniors and near seniors in the labour force beyond the current average age of retirementFootnote 4 may help to mitigate the above mentioned consequences of population aging. Furthermore, research indicates that continued participation in the labour force may offer a variety of benefits to older workers, such as a sense of purpose and pleasure; an opportunity for social interaction; mental stimulation; and positive health outcomes.Footnote 5,Footnote 6 It is known that many seniors and near seniors want, and need, to remain engaged in, or re-enter, the labour force.Footnote 7,Footnote 8 Indeed, Canadians aged 55 and over currently have one of the fastest rates of employment growth. However, it is also known that several barriers and challenges exist to those seniors wanting to remain engaged in the labour force.Footnote 9

Beyond impacts on the economy and labour force, the demographic shift is changing the face of our population, impacting the balance of different generational age groups, and magnifying the importance of the way different generations work, live, support and interact with one another. Positive intergenerational relationships between family members, co-workers, and members of the community, can serve as a source of social support and lead to the development of broad and diverse social networksFootnote 10, strengthened community capacityFootnote 10, and widespread social cohesionFootnote 10. While the state of intergenerational relationships in Canada is difficult to measure, it is known that various barriers, such as ageism, stand in the way of positive connections, support systems, and relationships between the generations.Footnote 11

The National Seniors Council is pleased to submit to the Government of Canada this report on the Council’s 2010-2011 priorities: 1) the labour force participation of seniors and near seniors, and 2) intergenerational relations. The Council acknowledges the important work currently being undertaken by the federal government to support these important priorities. While significant strides have been made, more can be done across all jurisdictions to support those seniors and near seniors who wish to remain engaged in, or re-enter, the labour force, and more can be done to promote positive intergenerational relations across all levels of society.

The objectives of this report are to identify the key challenges and barriers that stand in the way of the labour force participation of seniors and near seniors and positive intergenerational relations, and to suggest options for federal action that may serve to break down barriers and support the well-being of seniors and all Canadians.

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