Retirement laws bad for the working poor

A new book shows that mandatory retirement forces many Canadian workers into “marginalized” employment to make ends meet

Mandatory retirement is forcing many senior citizens, especially women, into low level jobs in order to survive, according to Time’s Up! Mandatory Retirement in Canada, a new book by Canadian researchers.

“Unfortunately, for much of the working poor – particularly women – retirement is not an option,” said Norene Pupo, a professor at York University in Toronto, and one of the book’s contributors. “They need to continue earning income and are often forced into the most marginalized types of employment, typically jobs in the service sector, characterized by low pay, poor working conditions and lack of benefits.”

In 2003, 44.2 per cent of Canadian women over the age of 65 worked part-time jobs in the retail sector, while only 17.5 per cent of senior men did the same. Increasingly, Canadian workers are working part-time, starting their own businesses or working odd jobs after retirement.

Tom Klassen, another York University professor and contributor and co-editor of the book, said the arguments most often used to support mandatory retirement cite high unemployment rates, the prospect of employee turnover and the need to open up jobs for new grads or youth.

“There’s this perception that older workers are ‘taking jobs away,’ from other groups,” said Klassen. “Essentially, that’s the same argument that was made about women joining the workforce – that they were ‘taking jobs away’ from men. Fundamentally, this is a human rights issue.”

Attitudes towards retirement are slowly shifting and the professors expect Canada to eventually catch up with Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., which have largely banned compulsory retirement.

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