From the turn of the century until the present, there have been nearly 20 years during which the age of both the general population and Canada’s workforce have been climbing.
If Aged-55-Plus Defines an ‘Older Worker’, A Milestone Year Quickly Approaches Graphic
The impetus behind this shift in age structure has been the exceptional level of births that occurred after the Second World War – i.e., the much-ballyhooed post-WW II baby boom generation. The most striking years for abnormally strong baby-boomer births occurred from 1946 through 1964.
In the labour force data calculated by Statistics Canada, ‘older workers’ are specified as being 55 years of age and over. (The U.S. Census Bureau likewise adopts a 55-plus designation for its older-worker cohort.)
Entering the foregoing information into a couple of simple mathematical equations yields some fascinating findings.
(A) The first wave of baby boomers reached age 55 in 2001 (i.e., 1946 + 55 = 2001).
(B) The last baby boomers will become aged 55 in 2019 (i.e., 1964 + 55 = 2019).
Before setting out the conclusions to be drawn from these results, however, more research needs to be discussed.
Included with this commentary are 17 vertical bar charts showing the aged-55-plus cohort as a proportion of the total employee pool industry-wide and for sub-sectors, for each year from 1990 to 2017.
In all the charts, and as might be surmised from point (A) above, the lift-off of the aged-55-plus proportion occurred in the early 2000s. After all, 2001 was when the vanguard of the baby boomer generation crossed the 55-years-of-age threshold. The construction sector, having long faced shortages in some key skilled trades, has been especially attuned to the advantages of retaining experienced workers.
Therefore, executives in the construction sector have grown accustomed to thinking of their industry as having an out-sized number of older workers.
As is readily apparent from Graphs 1 to 17, however, there are hardly any pockets of the economy where the age of workers has not skewed higher over the past 17 years. The decline in position occurred despite the aged-55-plus cohort moving upwards from 12.1% of all construction workers to 19.9% over the past 17 years.
In 2017, there were 10 industry sub-sectors with higher aged-55-plus proportions than construction, including: agriculture (38.0%); ‘forestry and logging’ (28.6%); ‘transportation and warehousing’ (27.7%); manufacturing (23.1%); ‘finance, insurance and real estate’ (22.2%); ‘health care and social assistance’ (21.6%); and ‘educational services’ (21.1%).
Whereas the 12.1% share for aged-55-plus workers in construction in 2000 was higher than the 10.1% for services-providing workers and the 10.4% for all-industry workers, by 2017 the relationships had reversed. In 2017, construction’s 19.9% share for aged-55-plus workers was less than the 20.7% for services-providing workers and less than the 21.1% for all-industry workers. ‘Agriculture’ has consistently been the sector with the highest proportion of aged-55-plus workers. Furthermore, its already-high 26.3% figure in 2000 shot up to 38.0% in 2017. ‘Forestry and logging’ has been the sector exhibiting the biggest upsurge in its aged-55-plus proportion, moving from a modest 10.5% in 2000 to a lofty 28.6% in 2017. At the opposite end of the age-structure spectrum has been the ‘accommodation and food services’ sector. It has remained a young person’s game. In 2000, aged-55-plus individuals working in hotels and restaurants/bars comprised only 7.0% of the sector’s total workforce. During the intervening years, that proportion has increased only marginally, to 10.7% in 2017.
By Alex Carrick
Daily Commercial News