About 21.7 million Canadians were in the working-age population in 2006, an increase of 6.4% since 2001. Of all the age groups within the 15 to 64 age group, 55 to 64 year olds grew the fastest between 2001 and 2006 (+28%). This particular age group, some of whose members are older workers, grew only half as rapidly (+15%) between 1996 and 2001. The rapid expansion experienced since 2001 is due to the fact that the first baby-boomers entered this age group over the past five years.
As a result, the number of people aged 55 to 64 has never been so high, at nearly 3.7 million in 2006. Today, they make up 16.9% of the working-age population, or about one potential worker in six, compared with 14.1% in 2001. It is expected that the number of people aged 55 to 64 will continue to grow over the next few years and could represent more than 20% of the working-age population in 2016, when more than one in five potential workers will be in the 55 to 64 age group.
With workers generally leaving the workforce between the ages of 55 and 64, Canada has never had so many people close to retirement. The ratio of the 15 to 24 age group, people about to enter the labour market, to the 55 to 64 age group, people approaching retirement, was 1.1 in 2006. It means that for each person at the age where people leave the workforce, there was just over one person at the age where people are entering the labour force. In 1976, the ratio was 2.3. According to the population projections' medium-growth scenario, in about 10 years Canada may have more people at the age where they can leave the labour force than people at the age where they can begin working.
These rapid changes in the working-age population present many challenges for Canadian employers, who will have to adjust to a high rate of turnover among their employees. Knowledge transfer, employee retention, the health of older workers and continuous training for employees will also be key labour force issues in the future.