Workers delaying retirement by 3.5 years: StatsCan

Employment rate reaches 34 per cent for people 55 and older

A 50-year-old worker in 2008 could expect to stay in the labour force 3.5 years longer than in the mid-1990s, according to Statistics Canada.

Using Labour Force Survey data, the agency estimates the number of years a 50-year-old worker can expect to work before retiring, if retirement rates of a given year prevail. Expected working life is estimated using a method similar to that used for calculating life expectancy.

Older workers have been increasingly delaying their retirement since the mid-1990s. This is consistent with the increase in the employment rate of older Canadians that began about the same time, said the government.

In 2008, an employed 50-year-old had an expected additional 16 years at work. This is roughly 3.5 years longer than workers of the same age in the mid-1990s, who could expect to work 12.5 more years. The 3.5-year increase was the same for both men and women.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a marked trend toward early retirement prompted by high public sector deficits and downsizing among private sector organizations, said Statistics Canada. However, since the mid-1990s, the tide appears to have turned.

From a low of 22 per cent in 1996, the employment rate of individuals 55 and older climbed steadily to 34 per cent in 2010. Their employment rate in 2010 was even higher than in 1976 when it stood at 30.2 per cent.

Length of time in retirement
Even though they are delaying their retirement, Canadians are not necessarily spending less time in retirement, found Statistics Canada.

The trend to delayed retirement has had the impact of stabilizing the expected length of retirement. That is because of a similar increase in life expectancy.

The expected length of retirement increased from 1977 to the mid-1990s and has remained relatively stable since. Between 1977 and 1994, the expected time men would spend in retirement increased sharply from 11.2 year to 15.4 years. In 2008, it was 15 years.

The trend for women was similar. Between 1977 and 1996, the estimated years of retirement for women rose from 16.4 to 20.6. In 2008, women would spend 19 years in retirement.

As a percentage of total life expectancy, the expected length of retirement from the age of 50 was about the same in 2008 as it was in 1977, found the government.

In 2008, 50-year-old men could expect to spend 48 per cent of their remaining years of life in retirement, compared with 45 per cent in 1977. In 2008, 50-year-old women could expect to spend 55 per cent of their remaining years of life in retirement, nearly identical to the proportion in 1977.

Employment rates
The employment rate of individuals aged 55 and over has increased substantially in recent years. Between 1997 and 2010, the rate went from 30.5 per cent to 39.4 per cent for men and from 15.8 per cent to 28.6 per cent for women.

This strong growth appears at odds with the stability of the average retirement age. Since 2004, it has remained at about 62, said Statistics Canada.

Hours of work
Individuals aged 55 and over reduced their average work week by one hour between 1997 and 2010. On its own, growth in the 55-and-over population would have increased annual hours by 48 per cent between 1997 and 2010. However, annual hours actually increased by 87 per cent over this period.

Therefore, the increase in delayed retirement since the mid-1990s has had a large, positive impact on annual hours, despite the decrease in average weekly hours, according to Delayed Retirement: A New Trend?

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