The large wave of baby boomers—individuals born between 1946 and 1965—accounted for 31% of the Canadian population in 2000, when they were in their prime ages of 35 to 54, and 24% of the total population in 2020, when they were older adults aged 55 to 74.1 Because of their sheer numbers, baby boomers have had a powerful impact on society. Now, as they are aging, concerns have been raised about the challenge that baby boomers pose to the sustainability of Canada’s economy and social programs.
Baby boomers are on average living longer and healthier, and thus are capable of working more years than earlier generations. The feasibility of working in older ages is further improved as the economic structure continues to shift from manufacturing to the service sector and knowledge-based employment that provide jobs with less physical strain. Whether retirement-age baby boomers will have a higher level of labour force participation (LFP) than earlier generations will have a large impact on their economic well-being and on the overall labour supply in Canada within a decade or so.
Using the Labour Force Survey (LFS) between January 1976 and December 2021, this article compares baby boomers and earlier generations in LFP. To simplify the comparison, this article examines five birth cohorts, 1920 to 1929, 1930 to 1939, 1940 to 1945, 1946 to 1955 (early baby boomers), and 1956 to 1965 (late baby boomers). These cohorts experienced some unique socioeconomic conditions. A synthetic cohort approach is adopted to follow each birth cohort year after year.
The LFP rate is used in the article to represent cross-cohort differences in labour market activities. This indicator reflects the overall prevalence of attachment to the labour market.
As baby boomers pass their prime working age, they have established patterns of labour market activities different from those of preceding generations. Although male baby boomers had a lower LFP rate than previous generations in their 40s, they have surpassed earlier generations in their 60s. At age 65, male baby boomers had an LFP rate at least 16 percentage points higher than those born before the 1940s.
Female boomers achieved a much higher LFP rate than earlier generations in their prime working age and maintained this lead well into their 60s. Over half of female baby boomers remained in the labour force by age 60, and more than one-quarter did so by age 65.
Many late boomers have not reached age 65. If the pattern of cohort differences in LFP trajectories up to age 60 continues, late boomers would work more than earlier generations in their late 60s and early 70s. Additionally, the COVID-19 might have affected the retirement decision of baby boomers, particularly late boomers. Along with the increasing possibilities of work from home and demand for labour, many late baby boomers who are still in their late 50s and early 60s may extend their career during the post- pandemic recovery period.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Do aging Baby Boomers work more than earlier generations? (Statistics Canada)