Return of Older Workers to the Workforce

By Barbara Jaworski
Workplace Institute

In a study produced by Statistics Canada entitled, “Delayed Retirement, A New Trend?” Yves Carrière and Diane Galarneau reveal some very interesting statistics trending in boomers over the last twenty years.

Older workers are stampeding into the labour market! If you needed any further proof that the dream of Freedom 55 and mandatory retirement is rapidly fading away, look no further than the following statistics. Statistics Canada reveals that since the economic recovery began in mid-2009, individuals aged 60 years and older have accounted for about one-third of new job gains. This is not simply a story of those in the 60-65 age range, but also of those older than 70. Employment for these individuals has surged by 55,000 positions since then (a 37% gain). Even more surprising is that almost 100,000 net jobs were added in the 60+ age group at the depth of the recession.
So what is behind this flood of people returning to the workforce? The answer is simple: People are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. This, coupled with the availability of more flexible work arrangements, leaves many older workers with not only the mental and physical capabilities to continue working, but the desire and means to as well. 
Most interestingly perhaps is the kinds of jobs that older workers are seeking; many aren’t interested in full-retirement, they are looking instead towards phased retirement, part time and flexible work hours. Nationally, most of the job gains during the recovery have been in service-based industries: Professional, scientific, technical services and healthcare though most notably retail. Older workers have recorded a net gain of some 75,000 jobs in the retail industry alone.
Some data was also revealed about the differences in boomer men and boomer women in the workplace. As the employment rate of men 55 and over increased, their regular hours of work decreased. In 1997, men 55 and over worked an average of 40.1 hours per week, compared to 38.6 hours per week in 2010. This decrease affected mostly full-time workers, who worked an average of 1.4 fewer hours per week, while part-time workers added 0.6 hours per week. Where women saw an increase in employment, the average work week also lengthened from 31.4 hours in 1997 to 31.9 hours in 2010.  Many different factors play into these numbers, and while the study itself shows that an aging population is slowing down slightly in hours worked per week, they are not slowing down in the desire to contribute to both full time and part time positions on flexible schedules that meet their need for work-life balance.
Baby boomers have played a large part in changes to the Canadian labour market over the last 30 years. The aging boomer generation and its transition to retirement will continue to have a major impact on the labour market and the economy as a whole. While many jobs have come available to older-workers on a part time or flex basis these past years, the talent shortages associated with the impending labour crisis are still a very real threat to many organizations. 
How do you keep ahead of the curve?
Part time, highly experienced individuals to replace those choosing to retire will become an asset to those organizations who want to stay ahead. 
Invest in older workforce strategies for your whole organization in order to retain the valuable knowledge and skill sets of present older staff before they too plan for the next phase of their working lives – with your competitors.
Train operational managers on the business case for keeping your employees working.