I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about something that has suddenly gotten put on the radar: the fact that in many industrialized countries, seniors will soon outnumber the younger, working-age population.
In Canada, for example, (according to a Statistics Canada report released late last year), by the year 2015, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 15. That would be a first in the history of Canada’s population statistics, said the stats agency.
Indeed, a worrying trend has emerged in the country: Canada’s fertility rates (the amount of births per woman) are declining dramatically. We essentially are no longer replacing deaths with enough births.
The trucking industry has been well aware of such dire predictions for ages. Truckers already constitute, again according to Statistics Canada, an older work force whose average age in 2004 was 42 (45 for the self-employed truckers).
Even more worrisome, only 5 % of truck drivers were under 25 in 2004, compared with 15 % in the labour force as a whole, says ‘the Man’s’ Stats division.
And trucking will have to compete with many other industries for scarce employee resources. You can’t exactly offshore the profession either!
Now demographics don’t happen overnight, but I think the sudden panic was probably encouraged by the fact that in 2006, the oldest Baby Boomers (encompassing those born from 1946 to 1964), turn 60. This wouldn’t normally be problematic because their generation is, as we all know, immortal, but now all sorts of queries and questions are coming out about what shall we all do? There’s no one left to work!
So in all of these articles I’ve read lately, they’ve got economists, statisticians and sociologists going on at great length about how to keep seniors working to a later retirement age, supposedly because, and I remember reading something akin to this, “gardening is just not gonna do it for them anymore.”
Whatever happened to “Freedom” 55?
Now, in some industries, such as trucking, there is good reason to keep working longer. Truckers, for example (again according to StatsCan) generally receive fewer benefits compared to other occupations, especially with respect to a retirement plan. If you’re self-employed, too, you’ve got the freedom (or you haven’t got the freedom) to stop working at a certain age, as long as you can, of course, carry out your duties safely.
That’s where I’m kind of confused. Notwithstanding their immortality, after 60 some of the Boomers have got to be showing some signs of aging, no? Signs that can’t be covered up with Botox?
And despite freedom of choice and ageism and all that, do we want, as an industrialized country, to have to depend on our senior generation to keep the country going?
Not to make it a generational issue by any means, but I know that my generation, Generation X, is disloyal and contemptuous. And Generation Y, spoiled and self-entitled, might all be addicted to Ritalin from all those hours spent in organized activity. But it kind of amounts to the same thing if we’re going to try to keep people in the workforce whose chemical intake is 22 pills a day, not counting the Viagra.
I’m even sure that some of them will eventually feel they need a break from the daily grind, even if the alternative is the potting shed or other euphemisms.
But more importantly, why are we only looking, in terms of policy, at that generation and ways to keep them going to work? There’s endless talk of “how can they collect their pensions and keep working without penalty, and if they want to work part-time, we could do this…..”
No one is looking at the next generations and saying “let’s figure out a way to, well, get more young people.”
Notice I didn’t say “Let’s figure out a way to tax them more.” Because I don’t think that’s the solution here.
I think there’s something wrong with a tax system that penalizes a family so badly when a dependent, such as a wife, stays home with the kids. It’s my understanding that at one point in time in Canada, a family with several children would hardly be taxed on income at all.
It seems that fewer and fewer people see childbearing and rearing as an investment in the future, not as a burden to the state.
Even the Chinese, long restricted by law to having just one “little Emperor”, are just paying the fine and having a second kid.
And while immigration is and always will be needed in Canada, you can’t just bring in more immigrants to solve a population problem, because who is to say that even if you brought in the kinds of immigrants that normally, culturally, like big families, they wouldn’t, under a crushing tax system and harsh North American work ethic, eventually just produce 1.7 children (or fewer, where the trend is headed) like Canadian moms?
Some people blame feminism. There are some women (and men) who do make it hard on others who choose the family route. It’s not uncommon in the workplace to hear women call those who have more than two kids “breeding sow” or similar. Others who’ve chosen to have no kids will say, “Wow, you get a year off? Wouldn’t I like to have a year off to go on sabbatical and travel!”
And women cannot agree amongst each other and are constantly pitted against one another on all of the choices they make in childrearing, childcare and in their own careers.
But, speaking for my gender, I can say quite honestly that it’s not always a conscious, radical decision women make to delay having kids. (There are some, of course, who believe that they are fully in control of nature all along). You literally don’t think about it during your twenties, because for years, you’ve been encouraged to get educated and get a job, and contribute in that sense. Most of us have no clue, until it happens to us, how difficult it is to raise a family in this country, with regard to what you don’t get, financially, when you take time off to care for an infant.
And it’s completely unequal too. If you work for the feds, you’ll get back over 90 % of your salary when you’re off, at least for a few months’ time. If your company doesn’t give you extra, EI is paying you 55% of your last salary, taxable of course. And if you’re self-employed, you get zilch. Read it: zilch.
You quickly realize that the government wasn’t really that interested in your long-service award certificate or your three degrees. They just wanted your income tax return.
So if we’re short of people, in other words, who are going to be paying taxes into the system in 20 or so years to keep our social programs going and our productivity levels “high”, (and, let’s face it, look after our older generation) what’s a bit of a break (whether through tax reform or a baby bonus of sorts) for a family for a couple of years to ease their kids’ way in life?
Seems like a drop in the bucket to me.
Julia Kuzeljevich is managing editor of Motortruck magazine, as well as sister publication Canadian Transportation & Logistics and www.ctl.ca. With nearly seven years’ experience writing for the Canadian transportation industry, Julia specializes in human interest, in-depth news and business articles of interest to the trucking and logistics sectors. Julia has a degree in languages with a postgraduate specialization in journalism, and work experience in the air transportation industry. All posts by Julia Kuzeljevich