Skip to content
Collage style illustration shows a person wearing protective gear at work beside imagery of a graph and pie chart.

LMIC to examine occupations at risk due to an aging workforce

Listen to this report as an audio recording

Canada's workforce is aging, and the number of Canadian workers approaching retirement age has never been higher.

Over the last several decades, the average age of Canadians has increased, and the share of Canadians aged 55+ is higher than ever.

According to Statistics Canada’s Population Estimates, the number of people aged 65+ increased by 36.9% from 2013 to 2022, reaching a total of 7.3 million. By 2030, the number of Canadians aged 65+ is projected to reach approximately 9.4 million people.1

The labour market reflects these trends: the proportion of employed people in this age group has reached an all-time high. In 2022, Canada had around 4.3 million mature workers (those aged 55+), representing 21.6% of employed Canadians aged 15 years and over (see figures 1 and 2).

Over the last 20 years, mature workers have been the fastest-growing demographic in the Canadian labour market. By 2022, they accounted for one in five workers, compared to only one in eight in 2003.

Figures 1 and 2: The employment rates of mature workers are increasing

Figure 1: Number of workers by age group, 2003-2022

Figure 2: Share of workers by age group, 2003-2022

The growing number of retirees poses challenges for Canada, particularly in terms of the potential impact on our labour market, government programmes and the potential shrinkage of the tax base. In addition, population aging is expected to increase the burden on our healthcare and social security systems.  

In this context, LMIC is exploring which occupations are at risk of potential labour or skills shortages due to an over-reliance on mature workers. 

As a precursor to the launch of our full report and findings, this blog explores some of what we know about what’s driving and mitigating workforce aging in Canada.

What’s driving workforce aging in Canada?

There are several factors that mitigate the aging workforce in Canada. 

Baby boomers are a large generation

A major factor contributing to workforce aging is the size of the baby boomer cohort, born between 1946 and 1965 and now aged 58 to 77 years. This cohort is larger than previous and subsequent cohorts. As of 2023, a significant number of baby boomers remain in the labour market, although some have retired. As a result of their ongoing presence in the labour force, baby boomers are raising the workforce's average age.

The average retirement age is rising

Today’s mature workers tend to stay longer in the labour market compared to previous generations. Indeed, the average effective retirement age has increased by 2.9 years over the past two decadesto an average of 64.6 years in 2022 from an average of 61.7 years in 2013. This trend is also reflected in the employment rate of older people. Over these same 20 years, the employment rate for people aged 55 to 59 years rose to 72.3% from 59.7%, while for those aged 60 to 64, it rose to 53% from 37.4%. The decision of older workers to extend their working lives contributes both to the increased share of mature workers in the total labour force and to the general aging of the labour force.

Fertility rates are declining

Declining fertility rates reduce young workers' inflow into the labour market. Canada is classified as a low-fertility country. Its fertility rate has been declining steadily since 2009 and reached a historically low total fertility rate of 1.4 children per woman in 2021. When the birth rate falls below two children per woman, it is not enough to sustain the current population levels.

Young Canadians are starting work later

Many young Canadians have postponed entering the labour market to pursue post-secondary education, particularly in programs that require longer periods of education. In 2019, 73% of Canadians aged 25 to 34 years had completed a post-secondary degree, up from 59% in 2000. This higher proportion is primarily due to an increase in young Canadians holding bachelor's, master’s, or doctoral degrees compared to the older generation (aged 55 to 64 years), 39% versus 24%. The percentage of Canadians holding CEGEP and trade certificates has remained relatively steady.

What’s mitigating the aging of Canada’s workforce?

There are several factors that mitigate the impacts of an aging workforce in Canada.

Growing participation of women in the labour market

First, the participation of women in the labour market has increased in recent decades. Because they tend to retire earlier than men—the average retirement age was 65.5 years for men and 63.6 years for women in 2022—women tend to lower the workforce’s average age.  

In certain occupations, the entry of women into the workforce has compensated for the loss of workers. For example, this is the case among family doctors, where the departure of older workers has been mitigated by the influx of female professionals.

Increasing immigration

The influx of immigrants, who tend to be younger than the general population, also contributes to a reduction in the average age of the workforce. In 2021, more than 8.3 million people, or almost a quarter (23.0%) of the population, were either landed immigrants or permanent residents in Canada. In addition, the employment of immigrant youth has shown a positive trend compared to Canadian-born youth.  

As mentioned previously, Canadian fertility rates are not sufficient to maintain the population. While immigration plays a dominant role in driving population growth—and about 80% of the 1.8 million increase in Canada’s population from 2016 to 2021 came from newcomers—it has not been sufficient to offset the other factors that contribute to the aging of Canada’s workforce.

The path forward: LMIC’s research on occupations at risk due to an aging workforce

LMIC’s upcoming report will examine the age composition of occupations and regions in Canada’s workforce, and provide insights into which occupations are at risk of potential labour or skills shortages due to an over-reliance on mature workers.

The report will explain how to use readily available labour market data to learn more about the risk of retirement-induced labour shortages at a granular level. It will also provide an overview of an initial examination of age composition as a guide to interpreting and applying this analysis at the regional and occupational levels.   

Access to comprehensive labour market information can help identify the regions and occupations that are most at risk of shortages from the looming mass retirement of mature workers. This can help companies plan strategically to manage their workforce and enable policy-makers to implement measures to mitigate the impact of these retirements.

To learn more about LMIC’s research and receive an update when this report is available publicly, subscribe to LMIC’s newsletter.

Laura Adkins-Hackett

Laura Adkins-Hackett


Laura Adkins-Hackett contributes to the analysis and development of labour market information in Canada. Laura is passionate about understanding why the economy works the way it does and how to best use labour and other resources to improve the lives of Canadians.

Headshot of Anne-Lore Fraikin, LMIC Research Lead.

Anne-Lore Fraikin

Research Lead

Dr. Fraikin contributes to the analysis and development of labour market information in Canada. She brings expertise in public policy analysis, microeconomics and microeconometrics, and in labour market, population and public economics.

Leave a Comment

Scroll To Top