Flexible retirement key to Canadian competitiveness say U of S, U of T researchers

SASKATOON - Policy-makers should recognize older Canadians' desire to keep working on a more flexible basis and end pension barriers that effectively push them out of the workforce, according to researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Toronto.

"Rigid retirement plans are no longer beneficial to the Canadian workforce," said Rosemary Venne, associate professor in the U of S Edwards School of Business. "Canada's economy will benefit from having flexibility in retirement plans that fit the needs and desires of today's workers."

She adds that doing so would help Canada remain competitive and retain some of its most highly skilled and experienced workers.

Venne recently published a study with University of Toronto economics professor David Foot entitled The Long Goodbye: Age, Demographics and Flexibility in Retirement. In it, they assert that current retirement plans have not kept up with the changing lives of Canadians.  As a result, workers are losing out on the social and financial benefits of employment and employers are losing the valuable skill sets and experience of older workers.

Life trajectories have undergone vast changes in the past 50 years, Venne explained, with more people spending their twenties gaining an education and entering the workforce at a later age. The trend to more education, earlier retirement, and longer life expectancy means people are spending less of their lifetimes in the workforce and more years in retirement.

By 2006, the average Canadian spent 23.4 years in retirement - seven years more than in 1976.

Venne explained that older workers often want to keep working, but on a schedule that works best for them.

"Implementing flexible retirement plans or partial retirement schemes, whereby workers engage in part-time employment as well as drawing on retirement benefits during the time not working, will benefit both employers and workers," she said. "It will bring the Canadian employment sector in tune with the needs of today's society."

Venne's research also dispels a number of common misconceptions. For example, younger workers are assumed to be a better investment, since they will be in the work force for a longer period of time. But reveals they have a higher turnover rate than their older counterparts.

Likewise, "older workers" - a term with no clear definition - often face age discrimination in hiring practices. These workers are often thought to be less productive than their younger colleagues - another assumption that is not supported by this research.

"Jobs today are moving away from physical labour into jobs requiring cognitive abilities," Venne said. "Older workers are just as capable of doing these jobs as younger workers."


For more information, contact:

 Jennifer Thoma

Media Relations

University of Saskatchewan


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