What Do I Need to Know About Older Workers in Canada?

The right to work and remain engaged in the workforce is under threat for many older Canadians. Some of the barriers to continued engagement are structural, others are part of workplace dynamics but they are largely based on negative attitudes and ageist presumptions about older workers.

For many older Canadians, the traditional rules of retirement are no longer relevant. Continued engagement in the workforce provides social inclusion, promotes overall well-being, fulfills financial needs, and most important, helps prepare Canadians for a secure retirement. Older workers should be able to expect the same rights as all Canadians – to work free of discrimination and be judged on their competence not their age.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) reports that generally older workers exhibit lower turnover, more dedication to the workplace, and have more positive work values.

As well, studies show that older entrepreneurs often have a better track record at establishing successful businesses than younger ones.

With retirement security increasingly out of reach for many older Canadians and with an need for skilled labour, there are important reasons to proactively address the employment needs of older workers. Older workers who remain engaged benefit themselves, fellow employees, employers, and continue contributing to society and the economy. Governments and businesses have a vested interest in encouraging older employees and removing barriers to their continued contributions to the economy.

Older Workers in the Labour Force

  1. Work offers personal fulfillment, dignity, social inclusion, and physical well-being:
  • Studies have found that unemployment can cause higher levels of stress, depression and other mental disorders and even greater usage of hospital resources.
  1. Work is a necessity that helps secure retirement and financial stability for Canadians without pension plans or adequate personal savings:

Barriers to Workforce Engagement

On average, older workers have more difficulty keeping their jobs, finding re-employment and tend to stay unemployed longer once they’re out of the workforce.

How is CARP Advocating?

CARP is calling on government and employers to work together to create an employment landscape that recognizes the importance and value of older workers by removing barriers and providing job opportunities.

  1. Remove barriers to continued employment

All levels of government should work together to remove systemic barriers and disincentives
to work. Such initiatives can include:

  • Changes to the tax and pension systems to encourage continued employment, such as
    being able to work and receive benefits while still contributing to a pension plan
  • The $802.1 million over three years, starting in 2022-23, to the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. CARP will be advocating for an expansion of the parameters to include older Canadians who want to transition to new areas of employment. Similarly, the $250 million over five years to help workers prepare and retrain for a “changing global economy” must also be aimed at older workers.
  • Intergenerational sensitivity initiatives to counteract ageism and ageist practices in
  • Better enforcement of human rights laws to counteract ageism and ageist practices in
  • Caregiver leave and support programs
  • “Emeritus” role for older employees in mentoring, strategic planning, special
    projects, outreach, recruiting
  • Create employer incentives that encourage flexible time and salary opportunities like “5 over 4”
  • Require equivalent coverage for employees of all ages in employer-sponsored insurance
  1. Help unemployed older Canadians during prolonged job search
  • Promoting and funding continuous learning and training throughout individuals’ working lives
  • Further minimizing work disincentives associated with the Guaranteed Income Supplement claw back provisions
  • Continuing to promote phased retirement through facilitated changes in the tax and
    pension system
  • Amending Employment Insurance rules to give older workers more time to find better matched new job opportunities
  1. Create job opportunities and promote the value of older workers

Older workers have immeasurable experience and value that is often ignored or relegated to the sidelines due to ageist attitudes and practices. Older workers play a vital role in our economy. The future job market will face a lower supply of experienced skilled workers at the same time that the knowledge and experience of older workers is being marginalized.

Government and business have a joint role in helping more Canadians find meaningful employment, remain engaged, and secure their retirement. Governments should provide:

  • Incentives for employers that encourage the hiring and retaining of older workers
  • Incentives and/or funding for employer-based job fairs and placement agencies that match unemployed older workers with relevant opportunities in their fields
  • Incentives for innovative management programs such as caregiver leave/support, “emeritus” unit, flexible time, and salary plans

How Can I Get Involved?

There are many ways to get involved.  Find out more.