As of 2018, there was one Canadian worker over the age of 55 for every worker between the ages of 25 and 34, according to a new report by Statistics Canada.
This ratio is down significantly from 1996, when there were 2.7 workers between the ages of 25 and 34 for every worker aged 55 and older.
“The aging of the workforce is mostly the result of the large cohort of baby boomers entering their retirement years,” noted the report. “This has resulted in a larger share of people aged 55 and older in the labour force than has previously been the case.”
This could cause issues for some occupations with low ratios of older to younger workers, it said. “Ensuring an adequate number of replacements for particular occupations may be a challenge because the population under 35 is seeing virtually no growth.”
The report found the proportion of workers aged 55 and older more than doubled, from 10 per cent of the workforce in 1996 to 21 per cent in 2018. While the proportion of older workers increased in all major occupations, it hasn’t been a uniform growth. The highest ratio of younger workers to older workers was in natural and applied sciences and related occupations at 1.7, though that was a significant drop from 5.3 in 1996.
Health occupations had the second highest ratio of young to older workers, at 1.5 in 2016 — down from 3.5 in 1996. Within that occupational group, about one in five registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, which is the largest health-care occupation, was 55 or older in 2016, compared to less than one in 10 in 1996.
As well, almost a third (31 per cent) of specialist physicians were 55 or older in 2016, up from 23 per cent in 1996. “Despite the rising demand for health-care services, workers who are providing health care to an increasingly older population are themselves aging.”
In some occupations, workforce aging was due to less demand for workers as a result of automation and globalization, noted Statistics Canada. More than half (52 per cent) of agriculture managers were 55 or older in 2016, for example, which “reflects the long-term decline in agricultural employment over the past century” driven by the use of new technology and increasingly concentrated farming operations.
Occupations in manufacturing and utilities had one of the lowest ratios of younger to older workers, at 0.8 in 2018, down from 3.4 in 1996.
Occupations that didn’t require a university degree also had larger proportions of older workers, including janitors, caretakers and superintendents (37 per cent), truck drivers (31.4 per cent) and administrative assistants (29.8 per cent).