Growing Number Of Seniors In Canada Continuing To Work Full-Time: Census Data

New census data shows that a growing number of Canadians are forgoing retirement and working into their golden years.

The latest census data released by Statistics Canada this week shows that more Canadians are choosing to eschew the traditional retirement ages of 55 and 65 and continue working. The latest data indicates that more than half (53%) of Canadian men aged 65 were working in some form in 2015, including 22.9% who still worked full-time throughout the year, compared with 37.8% and 15.5% respectively back in 1995. At age 70, nearly three in 10 (30%) of Canadian men were still engaged in some form of work in 2015, twice the proportion of 20 years earlier.

This shift towards continued work is even more dramatic for women, the census figures show. Some 38.8% of senior women were still working in 2015, twice the proportion that were doing so in 1995, while the percentage of women working at age 70 more than doubled over the same 20-year period.

Commentators said that the large pool of baby boomers who are deferring retirement beyond the traditional age of 65 represent a formidable cohort for governments and employers to deal with. Demographer David Foot said that mounting financial pressures, the erosion of traditional workplace pensions, and increasing life expectancy are forcing senior citizens to work longer than previous generations.

The average person’s lifespan has increased two years per decade for the past 50 years, said Mr. Foot, who has authored the best-selling book “Boom, Bust and Echo,” which anticipated the impact of the aging baby boom generation that was born after World War II.

“It’s stretching out our work life so we’re no longer thinking of retiring in our early 60s any more, and it’s stretching out retirement,” he said in media interviews. “Many people now have the opportunity to look forward to 20, possibly even longer, years of reasonably healthy retirement.”

That prospect, Foot said, puts a strain on people’s financial resources, particularly in an age when guaranteed pensions are no longer reliable sources of income. Mr. Foot added that the current crop of retirees are more likely to have stable, defined-benefit pension plans, unlike future generations forced to make do with a defined-contribution plan such as a RRSP — if they have any retirement program in place.

Despite its advantages, however, the aging workforce has yet to be embraced by private enterprise, said Canadian Labour Congress Senior Economist Angela MacEwen. While retail operations tend to have part-time work to offer seniors, she said companies with elderly employees in white-collar jobs need to rethink their approach.

“We haven’t had a discussion about retaining, maybe transitioning people into roles of mentorship, having them work part-time, flexible hours,” said Ms. MacEwen. “They have a lot of valuable skills to contribute, so it would be useful to maintain them in some capacity. But in a lot of cases it’s still a choice between full-time (work) or nothing.”