Aging Boomers Add More “Wrinkles” to Canadian Skilled Worker Shortages

There’s a new "wrinkle" in the Perfect Labor Storm story – for the first time, there are just as many Canadian workers over 40 as under according to new census data released Tuesday.

In a story all too familiar to U.S. employers, Canada’s workforce is aging dramatically as the baby boom generation slides into retirement.  Canadian labor analysts are sounding alarm bells about the economic fallout if shortages in IT, skilled labor and health care are allowed to materialize.

Statistics Canada says 15.3 per cent of Canadian workers are 55 or older and nearing retirement.

In 2006, there were 1.9 Canadians aged 20-34 entering the workforce for every person aged 55-64 leaving it. There were 2.7 replacement workers for every retiree five years ago and, 25 years ago, there were 3.7.

"Many organizations are in denial about the whole issue," said Linda Duxbury, a labor specialist at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. Industry watchers say governments and corporations across the country are unprepared for the labor shortages that will result.

Researchers have been warning for years about potential labor shortages across Canada, yet, labor market analysts say employers and governments have not responded.

The looming worker shortage is compounded by a glut of middle-aged workers whose knowledge base is quickly becoming obsolete.

As skilled worker shortages increase, these workers have more choices. David Foot, an economist at the University of Toronto, said "You’ve got be willing to pay for skills and you’ve got to be willing to pay for experience." Companies haven’t fully come to terms with how they’re going to battle the wage war.


Ira S Wolfe