New Frontiers of Research on Retirement

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The baby boom generation has caused fundamental changes in every social institution that has been touched by its maturation. The social institution of retirement will be no exception. Those looking at the evolution of our society expect that the wave of retirements that the baby boom generation is about to unleash will trigger some key institutional and cultural changes.

What adjustments will be needed in consequence of this wave of retirements? Corporate and community leaders and researchers will be giving increasing attention to this question in the years ahead. This book has been designed to contribute to the basic information that Canadian leaders and researchers will need when they begin to devote much more time and resources to these adjustments.

The book aims to stimulate thinking about aspects of retirement that have tended to be outside the main focus of the research literature, but which will likely receive much greater attention in the future. Among these aspects are the following:

  • social aspects of the emergence of a large number of people who form a substantial proportion of the adult population and whose length of time in retirement will be as long as that of a generation, roughly 25 years
  • women's retirement from the paid work force
  • family dynamics and retirement
  • retirement processes among people with no career job as conventionally defined
  • bringing unpaid productive work into scope as a dimension of retirement-related behavior
  • the increasing complexity in the pathways people take as they transit to the stage where they cease doing productive work
  • the emergence of new vulnerable groups, and shifts in the relative sizes of component sub-groups of the vulnerable population, as a result of major changes in the economic and policy environments.

Since the intent is to focus on some of these particular issues, it is necessary to exclude some of the major foci of existing research literature on retirement. These include impacts of wealth and wealth accrual, effects on the timing of retirement of government social security programs and related rules about access to certain kinds of income, impacts of pension eligibility and the evolution of pension coverage and pension systems, and how certain institutional rules about access to disability income and unemployment insurance payments affect retirement.

This book showcases Statistics Canada's contributions to the provision of information pertinent to the development of useful knowledge concerning retirement and other later-life transitions. For decades its pensions section has produced widely used information in this field, and it is now joined by the several surveys that have stimulated relevant analyses, especially the General Social Survey and the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, and most recently by the commencement of work on pension satellite accounts related to the system of national accounts.

A large part of the book is devoted to scientific papers based on Statistics Canada's data and which require substantial conceptual and statistical innovations that illustrate the usefulness of our data. In developing this focus, we have received important collaboration from L'institut de la statistique du Québec dating back to its major role in our 2003 Symposium on New Issues in Retirement.

I hope that the book will provide good value to present and future cohorts of students, teachers, researchers and policy analysts in the private and public sectors. I hope that it will find repeated use in classroom lectures, among reading assignments, as a source of support for MA and PhD thesis development, and in the analysis and design of policies in the private and public sectors in Canada. While this book provides a Canadian perspective, I hope it is relevant in some other countries where leaders and scholars are becoming increasingly aware of the issues related to the social institution of retirement.

Leroy O. Stone, December 16, 2005

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