Responding to the COVID-19 emergency, returning to growth: older workers and the pandemic recovery

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Author
Jon Lai
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the Canadian economy in a severe and unprecedented manner. For older workers and their families, the pandemic represents an ongoing challenge to their livelihoods, employment status, and financial well-being. Moreover, the current public health risks associated with COVID-19 also threatens the policy goal of increasing the labour force participation of older workers over the course of the next decade. The purpose of this report is to address the following policy question: what actions can be taken to ensure the financial well-being of older Canadians and support the future labour force contributions of older workers beyond the COVID-19 pandemic?

Key findings show that older workers are becoming more reliant on employment income to support their financial well-being. However, the pandemic has displaced the jobs of thousands of older workers and has increased the number of older adults that are long-term unemployed. Ageism in Canada remains a persistent barrier to the employability of older workers. As a greater proportion of the labour force becomes older, there is a growing imperative to create jobs that accommodate the needs and preferences of aging workers. This report recommends that provincial and territorial governments establish wage insurance pilot programs to help displaced older workers secure new employment, that the federal, provincial, and territorial governments increase employer awareness of age-friendly workplace practices, and for the federal government to conduct a summative evaluation of the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program.

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