Older workers: harness your experience

The typical profile of a part-time worker can be surprising. Often, one thinks it applies to just students or mothers, but nowadays, many part-timers are older workers. 

OLDER WORKERS MORE NUMEROUS                       

According to Statistics Canada, more than one third (38.3%) of part-time workers in 2016 were 45 and more (more important in proportion that the 15-24 population (33.8%)). And according to Recensement Canada, more than a half of Quebec population will be 45 year-old or more from 2036.

While the proportion of 15–24-year-old group was less important, the group of older workers continuously grew from 2008. Men and women between 24 and 45 years of age, on the other hand, have stayed stable. In an aging society, older workers are taking their place in a growing part-time job market

The baby boomers, that demographic wave of workers born after World War II, are approaching retirement age, or have already reached it. All seniors are not in the same boat, however. Some retirees said that they only required the equivalent of 60% of their former income. If they have a retirement plan and sufficient income, they will be less likely to want to continue working. The same study says that 27% of retirees polled worked part time. After 30 years of working continuously, they value their free time.

Among people aged 55 and older, employment was little changed in May, while their unemployment rate rose by 0.4 percentage points to 6.0%. Compared to the same period in 2016, more people aged 55 and older were working (+96,000 or +2.6%), resulting of the continued transition of the baby-boom cohort into this older age group. In Quebec in June 2017  people aged 55 to 64 years have known the most important raise in employment (+ 22 700, + 3.3%).

Retirements are forcing companies to innovate. Multinationals like IBM are exploring phased retirement, which also suits many employees, who hang on to their jobs for a few more years, while working fewer hours and taking longer holidays.

A large part of 45-plus workers said they worked part time by personal preference. They want to maintain a link with an active professional life. 26.7% said they worked for economic reasons or because they were unable to find full-time work.

FINANCIAL REASONS

Some retired people work two or three days a week in order to keep their savings intact and to find a balance. Seniors who do not have a retirement plan, however, are forced to work to meet their needs. Some employees were pushed into early retirement, while others had their positions eliminated or were laid off. Sometimes part-time work is all they can get, and some need to juggle several jobs to make enough money to live on.

Paul Gagner is director general of Montreal’s Eureka centre. Every day, he sees 40-plus men and women jobseekers and reintroduces them to the job market. He warns them against precarious jobs. “There are some jobs to be avoided, (for example jobs at minimum hourly rate )—I don’t recommend those to my candidates. They do not represent true choices, and they’re dehumanizing. The problem is that nowadays an education no longer guarantees a job, at least not right away.” An unpleasant, stressful and badly paid job is not worth it. You need a flexible job with a competitive salary and a pleasant environment.

ASSETS OF OLDER WORKERS

Older workers returning to the job market have certain assets that enhance their value in the eyes of employers, who want practicality and proven judgment from their employees. Experience can differentiate them from their younger competitors.

Companies like part-time work too. Paul Gagner is sure of it: “In times of crisis, companies are less likely to hire people full time. The real benefit for employers is the financial aspect. Part-timers are a lot less expensive. When those workers are older and bring with them their experience and know-how, you’re in business.”

OPPORTUNITIES

Many sectors are actively seeking skilled workers, particularly Alberta.

Large retail chains appreciate the expertise that can be provided by older workers. Chains like RONA and Canadian Tire offer advisor or associate positions to older workers first. Real estate agencies, banks and insurance companies need agents. Demand in construction, plumbing and other technical occupations continues to grow. Seasonal work may also provide older workers with unexpected opportunities. Ski resorts, for example, look for ski monitors to keep an eye on the slopes.

MYTHS AND STEREOTYPES

Older workers sometimes have to overcome negative stereotypes in order to land a job. Recruiters imagine that older workers are unable to use a computer properly, or that productivity declines after 50. Paul Gagner prepares his candidates to face these situations. He thinks that these myths will eventually fade away, however. “It’s just a matter of time. We can work until 70. Pretty soon, a great majority of seniors will be working.”

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