Canada’s Aging Population: Challenges and Opportunities for Healthcare, the Economy, and New Workers

Last year, Statistics Canada released a series of results from the 2021 Census that revealed that Canada is getting older. The working-age population aged from 15 to 64, who produce the bulk of goods and services in the Canadian economy, had reached a turning point. More than 1 in 5 (21.8%) people of working age are now aged 55 to 64. This means that over the next decade, a huge proportion of the workforce will be retiring.

Despite having the third youngest population in the G7 after the US and UK, Canada’s youngest baby boomers will soon be exiting the workforce. These are highly experienced workers, many of whom are in key roles across a number of sectors.

Addressing the Challenges of an Aging Population in Canada’s Healthcare Sector

This presents challenges for employers, especially in sectors such as healthcare. The aging population combined with experienced members of the healthcare workforce retiring means that there could be fewer healthcare workers at a time of increased demand for services.

Squaring this particular circle will be challenging, but doing so also brings with it a range of opportunities. Labour shortages in the healthcare sector are likely to drive up salaries, with government and other agencies stepping in to provide training for people looking to join healthcare professions. This will increase the opportunity for people in careers that may be threatened through artificial intelligence (AI) to retrain for highly skilled, well-rewarded and fulfilling new roles.

It will also create opportunities for skilled migrant workers from growing populations across the world to come to Canada, enjoy great careers, contribute to Canadian society and build new lives.

A Moment of Transition for the Canadian Economy

At the same time as large numbers of people are getting ready to retire, AI is being rolled out across different industries. This is likely to lead to more streamlined and efficient operations, lessening the need for some routine roles and freeing up workers for more creative and human-centered tasks.

Fewer workers may well be needed at precisely the time when the working-age population is shrinking. There is a certain serendipity to that but it doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels. Automation has the potential to create new opportunities, and an aging population will need new products and services to meet their needs. For example, businesses could develop new technologies to help older adults stay connected with their families and communities or create new healthcare products that are tailored to the needs of the aging population.

At a policy level, the government may wish to incentivize young families, making it easier for people to start families, enjoy a good quality of life and plan effectively. Opportunities for intergenerational collaboration, and finding ways to harness the knowledge, skills and experience of older and retired workers could create new ways of working and a more flexible understanding of retirement.

Implications and Opportunities for New Workers

Even with technological innovation, flexible retirement and family-friendly policies, it’s still likely that Canada will have an increased need for new workers from parts of the world with a growing population.

Competition between countries for highly skilled workers is also likely to increase, meaning that Canada will need to take a look at the quality of its offer in terms of financial rewards, career opportunities and quality of life. With its welcoming culture and established community links, Canada will have some key advantages in attracting the brightest and the best.

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