December 15, 2017 12:00 am

Retraining Canada’s older workers could help boost national economy by $65B: report

Clayton Fackler, 72, works at the check out at the new 2,000 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter store.

(Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

Offering additional training and flexible work options to Canada’s older workforce could boost national GDP by over CDN$65 billion, a new report by PwC reveals.

The report states that Canada currently ranks 16th out of 34 OECD countries for employment of workers aged 55-64 with a rate of 61 per cent. Despite ranking below countries like Korea, Germany, Japan and Sweden, the number of Canadian workers over the age of 65 has increased by over 140 per cent in the past decade.

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“There’s a lot of focus on the younger generation as it relates to Gen Y, Gen Z coming through, but when you look at the aging demographics globally and the global macro trend, it really does have a significant impact countries and the economies,” explains Karen Forward, a partner with PwC Canada.

By 2031, Canadians over the age of 65 will make up 23 per cent of Canada’s population, which will likely result in significant tax hikes for younger workers. A report published in November by the C.D. Howe Institute argued that these can be mitigated if Canadian workforce would continue working beyond age 65.

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Forward goes on to explain that offering older workers training in technology and other skills as well as providing flexible work options would help them stay in the workforce longer — which Forward says they are willing to do.

“For example an organization that’s looking to recruit in digital skills, when, in fact, there’s no reason why the older generation in the workforce can’t be trained in some of those areas. They’re not seeing the opportunity so they don’t know to get involved in them,” Forward said.

READ MORE: Canadians can expect a tax hike as senior population grows: report

Seventy-four per cent of Canada’s older workers would be willing to learn new skills to continue working, 47 per cent of Canadian workers aged 50-75 would continue to work if they could do so part time, and 35 per cent of that demographic would continue to work if they could do so from home.

“Training programs are a terrific area. People think – and this is where some of that bias exists – that the older a person is, the more experienced they are and therefore they don’t need as much training, so the training is focused on the younger generation,” Forward said.

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While the report states that 42 per cent of all Canadians are at a high risk of being affected by automation, older workers are at the highest risk of all age demographics.

“When you look at the level of automation that’s happening now, the new digital skills that people are required to have, everybody needs to be trained in those areas, it’s not just the younger generation coming through. And not only that, we know that the older generation wants to learn it,” Forward said.

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In addition to a skills gap and a lack of flex-work options for older workers, the report reveals that approximately 26 per cent of Canadians have experienced age-based discrimination in the workplace, which Forward states can push older workers out before they’re ready.

“When you look at individuals retiring and leaving an organization, what’s actually happening is older workers are wanting to stay in the workforce, they still want to participate. But, the flexibility of some of the work programs means they’re not able to do that.”

To see more Global News coverage of Canada’s age demographics, click here. 

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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