Ageing Boomers in the Workforce


The Boomer Generation thought we were turning society on its head in the sixties. Little did we know we would still be messing with the status quo sixty years later. Once again the “news’ breaks on CBC radio, this time on “The Cost of Living.” In case nobody noticed, there’s a big bulge of older Baby Boomers plugging up the top end of the labour force in Canada. Even older news; soon the same bulge is going to be plugging up the medical and social services of the country.

Give me a break. Everybody wants to complain about this. Are we losing a bunch of good workers? Are we keeping young people out of the workforce? Is there going to be a labour shortage when they all leave? Are pensionless seniors taking macJobs from teenagers? No matter which way you approach the situation, you can find an angle that predicts disaster.

One Point of View Is Never Enough

Are the Boomers plugging the top jobs and keeping younger workers from progressing? Yes they are.

When these Boomers retire, are they going to leave a big gap in the knowledge base of the workforce? Yes they are.

But wait a minute. What happened to all those younger workers who have been held back in lower-echelon jobs? Aren’t they over-qualified because of the lack of upward mobility? Oh. They all wandered off to other jobs where the grass was greener.

In other words, employers didn’t look far enough ahead and make the jobs they needed workers for alluring enough (Like by offering full-time work with benefits). In other words, educational institutions didn’t expand needed programs quickly enough. In other words, people didn’t tell their children to look far enough ahead, so the kids have hyper-elevated aspirations as to their employment futures.

You Had it So Good

I can’t help but observe that the younger generations are trying to apply the standards of the old workforce to their new situation and complaining that they don’t have what we had in the good old days.

There were never any good old days. The days of steady, full-time jobs at union wages with full benefits were also days of rigid work hours, lack of mobility, high unemployment and boredom with little chance to get ahead. Making up your mind at eighteen years old what you were going to be and sticking to it for the rest of your working life, no matter what. Industries waxed and waned in those days, too, and workers with very specific training at one task had nowhere to go when the plant closed, as they often did.

Newer Generations Moving Up

For you, I have the same advice I was given when I was starting out. Read the job market, looking five, fifteen and twenty-five years in the future. Get yourself whatever basic level of general education you can, and only then get some special training for a present-day job.

Phased Retirement

As far as dealing with the oldies, that’s a slam-dunk as well. Slow down. Don’t throw them all out at once. The new workplace model is going to be phased retirement. The Canada labour code is changing to allow older workers to ask for flexible work hours. Workplace flexibility will also benefit people with children and other family members who need care for all sorts of reasons.

An older person without the energy to perform the full duties of the job teamed with a younger person without the knowledge to do the job is a centuries-old transition method. Use mentorship in your shop.

A Personal Note

My wife and I had stressful jobs and family members who died young, so we took early retirement at a lower pension, encouraged in those days to allow younger workers a chance. I made up a huge spreadsheet predicting every factor I could possibly think of and calculated how much money we would lack, compared to working straight through to age 65. I set that number as my goal and continued to work part-time, individual contracts, public, private and even a few under-the-table, to make up the difference. I passed the break-even point after 12 years of retirement. I’m still working once in a while, but our income without that boost is still quite sufficient to our needs.

The non-monetary benefit, of course, is that I have only worked at jobs I wanted to, with people I chose to work with, at times and places that have suited me.

The benefit to society is that I continue to pay income tax. Also, much of my work is in the non-profit area, and the best way to get known in that market is to volunteer your time. So I spend half my time being paid and the other half giving back to society. As I get older, the balance shifts more towards the volunteer end. Some day we will both fall with a resounding crash or slip quietly through the back door of the medical system, but so far, so good.

Bottom Line: Quitcherbitchen

So stop worrying. The Boomers are not going to suddenly leap from the job market to the retirement home and the hospital. There will be no big rush of job opportunities. There will be no sudden loss of available workers.

But both workers and employers have to think ahead because these things will happen. Stop complaining about how you’re not getting what “they” used to get in the old days. You have the opportunity to get something better for yourself on modern terms. Plan for it, prepare yourself for it, and go out and get it. Just like the Baby Boomers and every generation before them did.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.