The proportion of men covered by a registered pension plan(RPP)has declined by 10 percentage points since the late 1970s, reports Statistics Canada in its November 2007 Perspectives. However, the proportion of women covered has increased over the same time period.

Since the 1970s, more well-educated women have entered the workforce, leading to increased retirement coverage for women. The report shows that 21% of working-age women had an RPP in 2005 versus only 14% in 1978.

At the same time, RPP coverage for men has decreased significantly. According to the report, the declining unionization rate in Canada between 1986 and 1997 and the general shift in employment towards low-coverage industries were the main drivers of this trend.

Increased competition between firms, increased employer contributions to the Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan, increased administrative costs, changes in legislation, increased worker life expectancy and a rise in long-term interest rates may also have been contributing factors, causing companies to turn to vehicles such as group RRSPs—or end their retirement coverage entirely—to help control costs.

The increase in RPP coverage for women helped mitigate the decrease in coverage for men, leading to only a slight decline in RPP coverage on the whole(22% in 2005 compared to 24% in 1978).

The good news is that, overall, the level of retirement savings for Canadian families has risen over the past two decades. For example, RPP and RRSP contributions of prime-aged couples rose from $3,900 in 1986 to $5,400 in 2004. But this positive trend doesn’t apply to families across the board—while those at the higher end of the earnings spectrum(the top 20%)are better prepared for retirement, those at the lower end(the bottom 20%)are no better off than they were before. The inequality in retirement savings growth mirrors the increased gap in family earnings over the past two decades, concludes the report.

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