The federal government’s advisory council on economic growth has released its second wave of recommendations that include extending the age of eligibility for the Canada Pension Plan, establishing a reasonable process for requesting flexible working arrangements and creating a universal subsidized childcare program to get more women into the workforce.

The advisory council believes allowing CPP and old-age security deferrals beyond age 70 would encourage willing older workers to remain in the workforce for longer. In its report, it suggested the government could also explore ways to make deferrals beyond age 65 more attractive.

“Within this system, we believe that the ages of eligibility for the old-age security program and Canada Pension Plan should be recalibrated and increased to meet the Canadian reality of an ageing society and a considerably longer life expectancy than we had just a few decades ago,” the council wrote in its report.

Read: Canada’s retirement system receives B grade from global pension index

Read: Employers challenged by trend towards delayed retirement

In its 2016 budget, the federal government made good on its election promise to restore OAS eligibility to age 65 for all Canadians. But in two different surveys conducted last year by Willis Towers Watson, two-thirds of employers said they’re having a difficult time finding skilled workers with many employees suggesting they expect to retire after age 70, says Ofelia Isabel, global account director at the consultancy firm.

“We need to allow more flexibility into the system. People are not all the same and jobs are not all the same,” she says. “We need a system that supports all kinds of people and all kinds of different types of work. So individuals in physically demanding types of jobs will likely need to stop work before 65, but many others can continue to be very productive well beyond age 70. What’s the magic of allowing people to defer only to age 70? Why can’t we allow deferrals beyond that?”

Read: Budget 2016: Changes to OAS and GIS benefits confirmed

The council also recommended a reasonable process for requesting flexible working arrangements, although it noted the issue would depend largely on the nature of the job and industry, as well as the employer’s labour needs and attitudes. Its suggestions include “widespread flex-time, job-sharing, compressed work weeks, phased retirement plans, part-time options for older workers looking to take on lighter commitments, or other alternatives to the standard work week.

“In this way, people who want to work could do so, and employers could retain the talent they need.”

Read: Employers and employees disagree on right to request flexible working

The government published the results of its consultation on the right to request flexible working last September. While it said at the time it intends to move forward in amending the Canada Labour Code to give employees in federally regulated sectors the right to request flexible working arrangements, it has yet to introduce legislation.

However, many employers are already leading the way in providing flexible working opportunities to staff. The Co-operators Group Ltd., for instance, allows employees to have flexible schedules, telecommute and work from home, says Kristine Dionne, the company’s director of total rewards.

But she does struggle with whether or not the government should legislate flexible working, noting it has to be conducive to the specific environment and the actual work the employee is doing. “If it’s a good employer, they’re going to do what’s right for their employees and they’re going to see the value. . . . If you can create total rewards or workplace policies that encourage and support that, then you’re better off as an organization,” says Dionne.

“But not all organizations are like that. . . . With labour shortages and things like that, that’s where people have choice where they work. Companies that have appropriate work-life programming in place and supportive cultures . . . they’re the ones that are going to have people that are attracted to them and that stay.”

Read: Editorial: Flexible work requires an attitude change

The council also suggested the creation of a universal subsidized childcare program, using the Quebec system as a case study.

Mallika Banerjee, assistant professor of organizational behaviour at McGill University, notes that while the Quebec system does encourage female participation in the labour force, the “problem is there aren’t enough subsidized childcare places for middle-income people, so it amounts to a double taxation.”

While she notes the Quebec system is effective in targeting the lower-income group, Banerjee says if the federal government brought in universal subsidized childcare, there should be some sort of adjustment, such as a working family tax credit on private daycare.

The council also recommended reviewing and recalibrating the entire employment insurance system to eliminate labour market distortions. According to the report, “some components of the EI program can create barriers to working, making the labour market less efficient and leading to suboptimal outcomes for workers and employers alike. For example, variable entrance requirements provide different access to benefits and related training supports by region, and there is a lack of variation in benefits to recognize different circumstances between long-tenured workers, seasonal workers, contract workers and the self-employed.”

Read: Feds confirm $250M price tag for CPP deal as premium details released

Responding to the report, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Ottawa would consider the council’s recommendation to increase participation among those who are able to keep working.

“We moved the age of the old age security system to age 65, recognizing that a significant number of Canadians are very challenged to work past that time,” The Canadian Press quoted Morneau as saying.

“We also want to be sure that we think about the demographic challenges that are to come.”

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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