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Retirement at 65 no longer the norm

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The retirement age has declined over the last three decades, prompting concerns about possible labour shortages in the future. In the 1970s and 1980s, the median age of retirement was close to 65; by 2004, it had fallen to 61.

The percentage of retirees has actually increased among younger workers. During the 1992 to 1996 and the 1997 to 2001 periods, the proportion of retirees under 55 rose from 11% to 16%, while the proportion of retirees aged 55 to 59 grew from 25% to 27%, according to data from the Labour Force Survey. Although the proportion of retirees aged 60 to 64 declined, it still represented the largest segment of retirees at the end of the period.

The wave of retirements may have the greatest effect on the three main public sector industries—public administration, educational services, and health care and social assistance. In these industries, roughly one in three older workers is approaching the median retirement age. In 2002, about 39% of workers in educational services were 10 or fewer years away from the median retirement age. The average age of the education work force was a fairly high 42, and the median retirement age was 57, lower than in any other industry.

Chart: Median age at retirementThe number of young retirees is increasing, whereas the number of people aged 65 and over who are still working is on the rise. From 1996 to 2001, the ranks of working seniors grew faster than the senior population as a whole. In 2001, highly educated people were  more likely than less educated people to continue working after the normal retirement age.

Self-employment was more common among older workers than younger ones. Farming and retail trade were the most popular occupations for older workers, but many also worked in professions such as accounting, medicine, religion and law.