National Seniors Council Report on Labour Force Participation

June 24, 2011 – When it comes to labour force participation and views on intergenerational relations, older Canadians are a diverse group, with various views, skills, and needs. This is the broad finding of a report prepared by the National Seniors Council (NSC).

Specifically, the report is a catalogue of important considerations, highlighting the need for incentives and other measures to address growing concerns about labour force participation by older Canadians and issues of intergenerational equity that may arise in the coming decades.

From October 2010 to March 2011, the NSC – established to advise the Government of Canada on all matters related to the well-being and quality of life of seniors – conducted consultations with Canadians on its two priorities through various formats, including regional roundtables, a national roundtable, individual consultative meetings with stakeholders, and an online consultation.

In total, the Council consulted 187 stakeholders, including CARP, to get input on issues related to labour force participation and intergenerational relations. The summary report of the consultations was released earlier this week.

The Labour Force Participation of Seniors and Near Seniors

The NSC report concludes that seniors and near seniors should have options in deciding whether and in what capacity they continue working. Many seniors do want to keep working beyond retirement, while others want to retire. Many seniors also have to keep working due to financial requirements, and this cohort of seniors is at particularly high risk of experiencing low job satisfaction, high stress, and lower quality of life.

Seniors and near seniors are not a homogenous group, the consultations showed. The choice to remain engaged, re-enter, or exit the labour force is influenced by many factors and varies from one individual to another. Policies and programs that support older workers need to be flexible and able to adapt to individual circumstances.

Older Canadians who wish to remain engaged in, or re-enter the labour force face numerous barriers. Some of these included physically demanding jobs; informal caregiving responsibilities; poor health; poorly adapted physical work environments; rapid technological change; existing mandatory retirement practices; age discrimination in the workplace and ageism; inflexible human resource practices; lack of awareness of available working opportunities and options; and low job satisfaction.

Intergenerational Relations

Seniors recognize the importance and value of intergenerational relationships, the report notes. Connections between the generations were said to be mutually beneficial, both on an individual and societal level.

Positive intergenerational relationships provide opportunities for social interaction and networking; the development of friendships and expansion of social support systems; improved social capital; and strengthened community capacity.

Participants noted that society is facing intergenerational challenges in all sectors, including the family, workplace, and communities. For example, within the family, informal caregiving pressures are increasing as our population ages; grandparents are providing care to grandchildren and receiving little formal support; and immigrant families are experiencing cultural differences amongst the generations.

Within the workplace, tensions can be caused by differences in work life values and work styles. For example, younger generations may place greater importance on flexible work arrangements and work-life balance, which may be seen by older generations as a lack of commitment or willingness to work hard. There is currently poor knowledge transfer between the generations, which can erode corporate memory. Management practices often do not take into account generational differences in the workplace, and there also may be increasing competition for jobs between generations.