© Reuters FILE PHOTO: A “Help Wanted” sign is seen in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo
By Julie Gordon
OTTAWA (Reuters) – More than a year after the Great Retirement in the United States, Canada is grappling with its own gray version: the Great Retirement.
Canada’s labor force grew in August, but it slowed from the previous two months and remains smaller than in the summer as tens of thousands of people simply stopped working. Most Canadians may be closer to retirement than they ever are, Statistics Canada said.
It’s not just the 65 and over crowd who are packing up their offices and hanging up their tool belts. A record number of Canadians aged 55-64 are announcing retirement in the past 12 months, statistics show. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3RVXvNM)
Graphic: Canadians are retiring in droves – https://graphics.reuters.com/CANADA-ECONOMY/EMPLOYMENT/lgpdwdxkovo/chart.png
That is accelerating a mass exodus of Canada’s high-skilled workers, threatening to drive businesses out of business, push up wages sharply and further drag down the country’s sagging productivity, economists said.
“We knew a long time ago that this wave was coming, we knew going into this moment,” said Jimmy Jean, chief economist at Desjardins Group. “And it will only strengthen in the coming years.”
“The concern you have, and what you’re already seeing in some sectors, is that people are leaving without enough young workers, so it’s a lack of manpower and knowledge.”
During the pandemic, pensions collapsed as many Canadians decided to stay in their jobs longer. With restrictions now lifted, many are rushing to make up for lost time, choosing to travel and spend more time with family.
Their departures are squeezing the labor force, which could weigh on economic growth as the central bank raises interest rates to prevent soaring inflation, with fears of a recession.
Canada – which has boosted immigration to help boost economic growth – has the largest working-age population in the G7 as a percentage of the total population, but at the same time its workforce has not aged, according to Statscan. One in five workers in Canada is 55 or older. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3RTcMyJ)
Graphic: Canada’s workforce is aging rapidly – https://graphics.reuters.com/CANADA-ECONOMY/EMPLOYMENT2/xmvjoajkypr/chart.png
There were 307,000 Canadians who left their jobs to retire at some point last year in August, up from 31.8% a year earlier and 12.5% higher than in August 2019, before the pandemic, Statscan said.
More than 620,000 Canadians fell into the 65+ age group during the pandemic, a population increase of 9.7 per cent. Despite three consecutive months of job losses, vacancies and postings remain above pre-pandemic levels.
Nurses and trucks
The retirement crisis is particularly severe in skilled fields such as trades and nursing. Since May, Canada has lost 34,400 jobs in health care, even as a record number of nurses reported working part-time.
Ontario Nurses Association president Catherine Hoy said those weren’t jobs being cut, but rather people retiring.
“Right now it’s a big problem because we’ve had so many people retire suddenly,” she said, citing the pandemic, working conditions and a wage dispute with Canada’s largest province.
The transportation industry is also struggling with severe labor shortages, both due to the pandemic’s frustration with extra supplies and an aging workforce.
The owner of Trans Canada College, the owner of Trans Canada College, which trains truck drivers, says more and more drivers are either retiring or considering retirement.
At the same time, trucking companies are in high demand, with many hiring student drivers as soon as they take on-the-job training courses and become fully licensed, Reeder said.
“If there are no trucks and people driving trucks… goods will be stored in ports and warehouses, as opposed to reaching their destination.”