StatCan says rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion still yields ‘de­mo­graphic div­i­dends’

Cape Breton Post - - Business -

Af­ter nearly four decades in the work­force, 64-year-old Louise Plouffe is look­ing ahead to re­tire­ment. But Tristan Plum­mer, 23, is look­ing for work.

Plouffe and Plum­mer rep­re­sent op­po­site ends of the age de­mo­graphic that de­fines the Cana­dian labour force, which is in the throes of un­prece­dented change, ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada’s lat­est cen­sus fig­ures re­leased Wed­nes­day.

The pro­por­tion of Cana­di­ans aged 15 to 64 grew just 0.4 per cent be­tween 2011 and 2016, its low­est rate since 1851, com­pris­ing 66.5 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

The agency ex­pects that pro­por­tion to de­cline to about 60 per cent by 2031, when the youngest baby boomers turn 65. By then, the pro­por­tion of se­niors do­mes­ti­cally would ri­val the level cur­rently seen in Ja­pan, cur­rently home to the old­est pop­u­la­tion in the G7.

That gives Canada a few more years to ben­e­fit from what Sta­tis­tics Canada calls a “de­mo­graphic div­i­dend’’: a grow­ing labour force while other coun­tries watch theirs shrink. Even­tu­ally the num­bers will de­cline in Canada as well, once pop­u­la­tions age and re­tire­ments take hold, said Sta­tis­tics Canada de­mog­ra­pher An­dre Lebel.

Pro­jec­tions about how long Canada will ben­e­fit from those div­i­dends de­pends in part on im­mi­gra­tion, which is the key to the mod­est gains thus far in the labour force, said Doug Nor­ris, chief de­mog­ra­pher at En­vi­ron­ics An­a­lyt­ics.

Much will also de­pend on the sorts of pol­icy de­ci­sions of­fi­cials have wres­tled with for years as they seek to pre­vent a com­ing crush of re­tire­ments from trig­ger­ing an eco­nomic slow­down.

Wed­nes­day’s fig­ures, the sec­ond batch of num­bers from last year’s cen­sus, fo­cused on the age and sex of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion _ the lat­est layer of a na­tional por­trait that Sta­tis­tics Canada is paint­ing through­out the year with the five-year data gath­ered in 2016.

In 2021, ques­tions about sex and gen­der are ex­pected to evolve as the agency looks at how best to ad­dress con­cerns the cur­rent sur­vey excludes trans­gen­der Cana­di­ans who iden­tify as nei­ther a man nor a woman.

The ranks of se­niors grew by 20 per cent be­tween 2011 and 2016, the fastest rate the cen­sus has recorded in 70 years, the num­bers show. The cen­sus counted 5.9 mil­lion se­niors and 5.8 mil­lion youth in 2016, mark­ing the first time there were more Cana­di­ans over 65 than 14 and un­der.

Plouffe, who hap­pens to be di­rec­tor of re­search with the In­ter­na­tional Longevity Cen­tre Canada at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa, said gov­ern­ments need to tap into that grow­ing nat­u­ral re­source and find ways to help older work­ers stay in the work­force for as long as they need.

“It’s novel in hu­man his­tory. Older peo­ple are health­ier than they have been in the past and rep­re­sent a tremen­dous re­source,’’ she said.

“Poli­cies have to be adapted to help peo­ple re­main healthy, ac­tive and in­de­pen­dent as long as possible.’’

The fed­eral govern­ment has been con­sid­er­ing op­tions since shortly af­ter tak­ing of­fice. A draft brief­ing note to So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter JeanYves Du­c­los, dated Oc­to­ber 2015, made a key point: Canada is among a mi­nor­ity of OECD coun­tries where 65 is the age of el­i­gi­bil­ity for pub­lic pen­sions. Among 34 OECD coun­tries, 23 coun­tries have ei­ther in­creased the age or plan to do so.

Re­tire­ment ages “will be at least 67 by around 2050 in most OECD coun­tries,’’ of­fi­cials wrote in the doc­u­ment, ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act.

Plum­mer, who lives on Toronto’s eastern flank in the re­gion still known to many as Scar­bor­ough, says he rou­tinely bumps into older work­ers who are stalling their re­tire­ment for var­i­ous rea­sons.

The com­mon per­cep­tion is that older work­ers stay­ing in the labour mar­ket longer are go­ing to make it harder for Plum­mer to find a good job, but re­search sug­gests oth­er­wise, says Vass Bed­nar, who headed the fed­eral govern­ment’s ex­pert panel on youth em­ploy­ment.

“When we are talk­ing about older peo­ple ex­it­ing so that younger peo­ple can move up, I think in­tu­itively that only works if you think about those kinds of hyper-for­mal­ized, al­most old-school firms,’’ Bed­nar says, point­ing to banks and gov­ern­ments as ex­am­ples.

Fed­eral re­search re­leased to The Cana­dian Press paints a nu­anced pic­ture about lo­cal labour mar­kets.

Ru­ral, re­source-rich ar­eas of the coun­try like Al­berta or north­east­ern B.C. have a pos­i­tive im­pact on em­ploy­ment rates for young and old. The cen­sus data show that growth was high in some of the eco­nomic re­gions that make up these ar­eas: a 2.2 per cent jump in north­east­ern B.C., and 11-point-plus in­creases in Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary.

Re­searchers from Em­ploy­ment and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Canada also found that em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in At­lantic Canada, which saw the largest drop in the pro­por­tion of peo­ple 15 to 64 in the cen­sus, re­main low for every­one.

And in a find­ing that bucked na­tional trends, youth em­ploy­ment rates in ma­jor cities like Toronto and Mon­treal re­mained low, with the op­po­site find­ing for older work­ers.

The re­searchers be­lieved this was due to a few fac­tors, in­clud­ing fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple who leave school com­pared to those who do so in re­source-rich ar­eas. They also con­cluded that older, white-col­lar work­ers liv­ing in ur­ban cen­tres like Toronto and Win­nipeg stay in the labour force longer, boost­ing their em­ploy­ment rates.

Plouffe says she still plans to for­mally re­tire from her po­si­tion come De­cem­ber when she turns 65, but will vol­un­teer with the in­sti­tute. Other re­tirees do the same, she says: they may not work full-time, but they find ways to con­trib­ute on a part-time ba­sis.

“The re­tirees that I know are peo­ple who are ac­tive, in­tel­li­gent, en­gaged and con­tinue to use their skills for the com­mu­nity, while bal­anc­ing time for them­selves and their fam­i­lies,’’ Plouffe says.

“So I’ll con­tinue do­ing what I’m pas­sion­ate about, but with­out pay and part-time.’’

CP PHOTO

Louise Plouffe, Ph.D., Di­rec­tor of Re­search at the In­ter­na­tional Longevity Cen­tre (ILC) Canada, is pic­tured in her of­fice at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa in Ot­tawa on Mon­day. Af­ter nearly four decades in the work­force, 64-year-old Plouffe is look­ing ahead to re­tire­ment.

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