December 19, 2022

Weekly EconMinute—The grey wave of retirement

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about the grey wave of retirement and life post-work.

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Canada’s aging workforce⁠—“the grey wave of retirement”—has been identified as a root cause of the national labour shortage.

This is also true in Alberta where for some businesses and industries (construction, manufacturing, and oil field services, to name a few), that once-looming wave seems to have crashed overnight.

In fact, over the last few years, around 72,000 Albertan baby boomers hung up their hat for retirement.

This large number of retirement parties is not new since COVID. For the last several years, workers have retired at near double the rates of decades past. Now, the provincial economy is starting to feel it.

The number of unfilled jobs in Alberta has roughly doubled since COVID. A back of the envelope calculation tells us that about 80% of those newly open positions are due to the grey wave of retirement.

Though we can’t reverse the clock on aging, longer life expectancy presents an opportunity for Alberta businesses. Here is what we know:

  • Workers are retiring at roughly the same age now as they did in the early 1980s: around age 65. There are simply more of them around now.
  • Those retiring now have around 21 years of expected life post-retirement. This compares with just 17 years in the ‘80s.
  • Around three quarters of retirees would like to continue working in some capacity. However, only one in four actually do.
  • Key issues? A bias against older workers and a lack of flexibility.    

Connecting recently retired workers with part-time or contract work via more intentional outreach could go a long way toward both easing the gap “boomers” leave behind and supporting the healthy aging of this group in the decades post-retirement.

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