The next set of data from the 2011 census shouldn’t hold manysurprises for anyone in Canada but it no doubt will. On Tuesday, Canadians will discover how old their society hasgrown. It will be apparent in black and white how fast the babyboomers are entering their golden years, and how quickly thepopulation of seniors is overtaking the number of youngsters. It’s the second tranche in a series from Statistics Canada’s 2011census, a full count of the Canadian population done every fiveyears. Experts say they expect to see evidence that the number of peoplein Canada over the age of 65 will soon outnumber those under theage of 15 the result of a surging senior population and a steadydecline in the ranks of children.
None of it will come as a shock to demographers, who have watchedthe baby boom bubble grow older over time as the national birthrate slowly drops. But analysts say policy makers and businesses alike have, untilonly very recently, largely ignored the challenges posed by anaging society. Now, as the data piles up, reality is dawning at every level ofgovernment that the effects of aging are pervasive, reaching intoalmost every area of policy making, and by extension into thedaily lives of most people in Canada, young and old alike. “We have to think about it everywhere, in everything we do,including government, including business,” said Lynn McDonald,director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging at theUniversity of Toronto. From the kinds of sidewalks that municipalities build to the scopeof national social programs, aging has begun to dominate everycorner of decision-making.
And nothing illustrates the enormousimpact of aging on policy making better than old age security. Tough choices yet to come With the stroke of a pen in the last budget, the federal governmentessentially raised the age of retirement and immediately threwcompanies, policy makers and normal people saving for retirementinto a scramble. ‘The baby boomers, and up-and-coming older people, are going tohave to care for themselves.’ Lynn McDonald, Institute for Life Course and Aging By raising the age of eligibility by two years, Ottawa has knockedpersonal financial plans off kilter, prompted middle-aged people torethink their career paths, started a policy review in manydifferent government departments with benefit programs tied to OAS,and launched fiscal negotiations with the provinces. The change will also force financial institutions and institutionalinvestors back to the drawing board to reconfigure pensions andlong-term investment strategies, since anything now tied to age 65is up in the air. It will take years to work out all the cascading changes, saidMalcolm Hamilton, a pension consultant with Mercer Human ResourceConsulting Ltd. Cummins Turbo Kits
“It has created a bit of a nightmare from a planning perspective.Unless you were really confident in your ability to plan, I thinkthis is a good time to say, ‘Let’s just sort of continue businessas usual for a few years in the hopes that some of this settlesdown.”‘ Turmoil aside, the move has also helped set federal finances on afirm fiscal footing for decades to come, giving Ottawa more roomfor spending elsewhere in future decades. But even though governments have known for 30 years that thedemographic bulge would be retiring now, the tough policy decisionshave yet to come, said economist Chris Ragan, a professor at McGillUniversity in Montreal. In a recent analysis, Ragan predicted that rising age-related costsassociated with elderly benefits especially health care wouldmean an extra $56 billion a year in public expense, in today’sterms. While Ottawa has made a start in tackling elderly benefits, therehas been scant attention paid to the effects of aging oncaregiving, tax policy, health care delivery and labour forceparticipation, Ragan notes. China Hitachi Turbochargers
National conversation needed Indeed, the next tranche of census data will show clearly how thesize of the workforce is changing as society ages and the birthrate stagnates. A smaller workforce in the future will mean the continual advancesin standard of living that Canadians expect will be a thing of thepast — unless major changes are made in the way companies andworkers do business. It’s slowly dawning on baby boomers that there are so manyoutstanding issues in the public sector and in the workplace thatgovernments won’t be able to keep up, said McDonald. “The baby boomers, and up-and-coming older people, are going tohave to care for themselves.” Financially, they will have to save more than in generations past,and learn to navigate financial markets, since that’s where theirsavings are. Turbo Wastegate Actuator Manufacturer
And in health care, they are going to have to learn about managingchronic illness, dementia and improving their diets, since thehealth care system as it exists today is more focused on acutecare. Women in particular are going to have to figure out ways to handlemounting care-giving responsibilities even as they stay in theworkforce longer, McDonald said. The census will serve to confirm the long-term trends, clarify theexact configuration of the workforce and retirees, and she hopes prompt a national conversation on changes that need to be madeto accommodate the aging population. “Finally people are going, ‘Oh my goodness, we have more olderpeople than children under 15.
What a surprise!”‘ she saidsarcastically. “It’s an enormous issue, and an enormous task.”.