Older workers are staying in the workforce longer and, as a result, may be dampening the threat of a sudden and severe labour shortage as baby boomers retire, according to a new Statistics Canada study.
An estimated 2.1 million individuals aged 55 to 64 were either employed or looking for work in 2006, more than double the total in 1976, according to the study
Participation of older workers
They represented 12 per cent of the total labour force in 2006, compared with 10 per cent thirty years ago.
The two main forces behind these increases are an aging population and rising labour force participation rates among older workers.
In 2006, these older workers represented 14 per cent of the total population, up from 11 per cent in 1976. At the same time, the overall labour force participation rate for this group increased from 53 per cent to 59 per cent.
Data showed that the majority of individuals in their late 50s were still working last year. Among men aged 55 to 59, three-quarters (76 per cent) either had a job or were looking for one. This rate was below the 1976 high of 84 per cent, but above the 1998 low of 71 per cent.
Not surprisingly, a smaller proportion of people aged 60 to 64 were participating in the labour force, but both men and women have made recent gains. Last year, 53 per cent of men in this age group were participating in the workforce, compared with 43 per cent in 1995. A record 37 per cent of women in this age group were doing so as well.
The study suggests that the labour force participation among this age group will continue to rise because of three factors: a strong attachment to the labour market among baby boomers; rising levels of education, particularly among women; and an apparent desire among people over 55 to continue working.
In terms of employment, just over two million people aged 55 to 64 had a job in 2006, producing an employment rate of 56 per cent. Most jobs were in the services sector, and the vast majority of employment was full time.
In Alberta, 68 per cent of older workers aged 55 to 64 had a job in 2006, the highest provincial employment rate. Because of the oil boom, the province has experienced labour shortages and is attracting workers of all ages. Saskatchewan and Manitoba also had employment rates of over 60 per cent for this age group.