September Labour Report: Retirement and childcare top concerns

After three straight months of net job losses across all industries in Canada, Statistics Canada reports there were 21,000 net new opportunities in September. While it’s always good news to learn more jobs are being added to the Canadian economy, there are still 92,000 fewer people working in September compared to May (when employment last increased) with only a slight increase to the unemployment rate.

Meanwhile, following a brief bump in unemployment numbers last month, unemployment fell back down to 5.2% – continuing to hover just above the historic low of 4.9% in June.

Retirement continues to have major impact on available labour force

Retirement continues to put pressure on Canada’s labour squeeze. Since 2019, the number of Canadians age 65+ has grown by 11.6%, while growth in the population of working age people has only been 3.5%. This is not new news, over the past 20 years Statistics Canada has found total labour force participation in Canada has fallen steadily, due in large part to an aging population. What is news on the other hand, is that as of September there were nearly one million Canadians aged 55 to 64 who cited retirement as their main activity.

Statistics Canada reports 146,000 of these early retirees had worked within the last year. Overall, Canadians have broken yet another record with 307,000 people retiring over the last 12 months, compared to 233,000 from the year earlier. To illustrate the contribution of aging and early retirement to the current labour supply, there were 134,300 more vacant positions in July of this year compared to the year prior, despite the aforementioned decrease in available jobs over the last several months.

While some have suggested the answer to mass retirement is to increase the age of retirement, it is clear from these numbers that with nearly 50% of retirees under the age of 65 the mandatory age of retirement will not likely be a deterrent. Most people will retire when they are financially ready or physically unable to work any longer, regardless of their age. However, there are steps employers can take to make employment later in life more attractive. Creating more roles that offer more flexibility (e.g., remote work, part-time hours, asynchronistic work) or the transference of skills through mentorship and coaching roles or project-based work. All of these types of employment offer near retirees a slower exit out of the workforce and incremental gains for employers.

Childcare responsibilities disproportionately affecting mothers

While the employment rate of mothers with at least one child under 18 hit its highest level for the month of September since 1976, it has affected the opportunities women are willing to take. According to Statistics Canada, despite this record-high employment rate, women were more likely than men to have taken career or job-related decisions that prioritized childcare responsibilities. Twice as many mothers compared to fathers decided not to apply for jobs or promotions or turned down a job offer in the last year due to childcare responsibilities.

“Mothers also continue to take on more tasks related to schooling than their male counterparts,” reports Statistics Canada. “In September nearly half (48.5%) of core-aged mothers with children under 16 indicated that they helped their children with homework and homeschooling most of the time or all of the time, compared with one-quarter (24.3%) of their male counterparts.”

Although the number of working mothers has increased exponentially from 1976 (40.5% to 76.5%), the needle has barely moved for fathers (93.3% working in 1976 compared to 91.8% in 2021), and is still massively higher than their paternal counterparts. This is clearly an underutilized market and understanding what motivates mothers for work and how we can tailor opportunities to help them achieve their Work+Life equation will be increasingly important over the next decade to ensure we don’t alienate a large portion of our population. Similar to retirees, mothers are looking for employment opportunities that fit into their busy lives. For mothers this might mean accommodating unpredictable and competing priorities or flexibility where and when they work.

What can employers do?

It’s clear, the Canadian Labour pool has been significantly altered by the Pandemic and an aging demographic. Businesses in Canada must rethink what work looks like and how workflows through workers. Maintaining a skills or talent gap over the long term, or digging your corporate heels in to find someone who will work in the pre-pandemic mode is not a smart strategy.

To put it plainly – there are still more jobs than there are people available to fill them, which means we are still facing a massive labour shortage nationwide. People want to work, and in an employee-driven market employers need a competitive edge to attract and retain top talent.

Often times the best and easiest decision is to work with experts. Agilus has over 45 years of proven success helping employers find top-notch candidates and improve their hiring strategies. Our team of recruitment and human resourcing experts from coast-to-coast are able to help your business navigate the uncertainty of the current economic climate, develop your Employee Value Proposition, and most importantly – find you the right people, right now. Contact us today to get started.

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