STANDING COMMITTEE ON HUMAN
RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT AND THE STATUS OF PERSONS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DU
DÉVELOPPEMENT DES RESSOURCES
HUMAINES ET DE LA CONDITION DES PERSONNES HANDICAPÉES
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Wednesday, April 21, 1999
The Chairman (Ms. Albina Guarnieri (Mississauga East, Lib.)):
We'll begin. May I ask everyone to sit down, please.
Before we begin with our witnesses, I have a couple of quick
announcements to make. By popular demand, the Sims report will be
discussed on Tuesday, rather than following this meeting. I see the
disappointed faces around the table. I know this to be.
Also, Madame Girard-Bujold has a motion she'd like to very quickly
present, with the indulgence of our witnesses.
Would you care to present it?
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Thank you, Madam
Chair, for allowing me to present my two notices of motion. I move
that the committee invite Doug Young to appear with reference to
its study of POWA, and the Minister of Human Resources Development
with reference to its broader study on older workers.
The Chair: You will be pleased to hear that Mr. Doug Young's
name is already on our list.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: We agree on that.
The Chair: We've already invited the Minister to appear before
the committee, and I think we were all in agreement on this.
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I'd like to know, Madam Chair,
whether you could extend until Friday the deadline for submitting
the names of witnesses. Before the Easter break, we were in touch
with a number of individuals we would have liked to invite to
appear, and they called us back last week to ask for a few more
days before giving their final answer.
The Chair: Yes, we can wait until Friday. I would invite you
to submit the names to the clerk, so that we can add them to the
Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: That is very kind. Thank you,
The Chair: Mr. Coderre.
Mr. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib): I do not have any ulterior
motive here, but I would like to know what status former ministers
have when they appear before committees. Are they not bound by some
The Clerk of the Committee: I will check on that and let you
Mr. Denis Coderre: Fine, it was just for my own information.
The Chair: Thank you.
So without further ado—I don't want to delay our witnesses who have
been sitting there very patiently—today we are going to begin our
study of the growing crisis for millions of Canadian workers trapped
in unskilled jobs that they know won't exist in a few years. These
are usually older workers with families to support, with no prospect
of dropping out of the workforce to go back to school.
The programs we have today pay a lot of attention to these workers
when they finally do lose their jobs and are faced with months of
unemployment, uncertainty and financial strain, while they are
retrained in the hope of finding a new job. This committee is
actually looking for ways to prevent this crisis from impacting on as
many workers as it does.
We look to our witnesses today to help us find the most effective
means to help workers upgrade their skills while they still have their
jobs and incomes to support their families. So I'm sure you're going
to give us a great many insights.
I would like to introduce Jean-Pierre Voyer, director general for the
applied research branch, strategic policy; Glynnis French, director
general, labour market policy, strategic policy; and Serge Bertrand,
director, evaluation services, evaluation and data development,
strategic policy. So welcome, and without further ado, please begin.
Ms. Glynnis French (Director General, Labour Market
Policy, Strategic Policy, Department of Human Resources
Development): Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the
committee. We're very happy to be here today to
discuss with the committee the situation of older workers.
As you know, HRDC spends considerable time and effort
reintegrating people into the labour market. We do
this in a number of different ways: by disseminating
labour market information, by active labour market
programs, and through programs targeted to individuals
with specific needs—for example, the youth employment
strategy, which is aimed at young people, and programs for
persons with disabilities.
We're here today to respond to a request for background information
on older workers. We thought we would do the following. First, my
colleague Jean-Pierre Voyer, who is with the applied research branch,
will discuss the situation of older workers in the labour market as
well as factors that have contributed to these outcomes for older
workers. Serge Bertrand, of evaluation and data development, will
discuss the lessons learned from past programming related to older
workers, including programs in other countries based on existing
evaluation literature. I'll then come back and wrap up with some
Without further ado, I'll pass over the microphone to Jean-Pierre
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer (Director General, Applied Research Branch,
Strategic Policy, Department of Human Resources Development): Thank
I will try to provide you at the beginning of your deliberations with
some of the basic facts so that you can work from a common set of
information. I don't pretend to have figured out all the problems in
this presentation, but I will at least show you some of the major
The first observation to make is whether technology works or not.
The first thing to realize is that older workers as a group continue
to experience labour market outcomes that are comparable to, or even
better than, other age groups. There's a bit of a myth in a way that
we tend to think of older workers as workers who are not necessarily
doing very well.
If you look at this chart strictly from an employment rate point of
view, the red line is the unemployment rate of the 50-to-64 age group.
You can see that it compares favourably to other primary age groups,
and it's much lower than for younger workers.
However, the unemployment rate figures for older workers hide the
fact that a lot of them tend to leave the labour market. They just
get discouraged or voluntarily or involuntarily...but I'll come back
to that later. There is a kind of non-participation behaviour. As you
can see from the black line—and I'm talking about
55-year-olds-plus—their employment rate, the number of employed older
workers as a proportion of the population, has been going down
steadily for the last 20 years. And that has not happened in other
In terms of your committee deliberations, I presume you're focusing
on the 55-year-olds and over as being your population. A lot of
literature uses the 45-year-old-plus as well as the older workers, but
I think the consensus is around 55 years and older.
In terms of earnings, the situation we have for males is that they've
caught up with other groups a lot. It's the blue line. As you can
see, there was a gap where those 45 to 54 were doing better than all
the other groups, and those 55 and over have been catching up.
This is not true in the case of women. We see some difference,
although it is less significant than the chart shows. The point
that emerges is that there is not a great difference in earnings
among those who work full time, throughout the whole year. This
chart does not include part-time workers.
Another interesting statistic is the lay-off rate, the
proportion of older workers who get laid off as
compared to other groups. We have the impression that
only older workers get laid off. As you can see,
yes, there's a higher incidence of lay-offs for the
55-year-olds-plus as compared to other groups,
but they're not that different from other groups.
As for the other groups, the outcomes for older workers
vary very much with education; education is very
important. As you can see, low education is
associated with much higher unemployment rates, but
the interesting thing here is that it's not as much as
for the younger generation.
If you look at this chart, the red stack represents the older
workers. You can see that the unemployment rate increases
disproportionately with the level of education, but not as much. If
you compare that to the youth, for instance, those with low skills, of
course, have a very high unemployment rate...or even with the primary
age worker there's a steeper increase of unemployment the less skilled
they are. It is the case for older workers, but not to the same
Again, the same phenomenon that I referred to before is
happening, that is, unemployment figures are a bit
misleading for older workers because a lot of them just
simply pull out of the labour force, they just get out
of there. They don't report themselves unemployed
any more. Are they really employed or unemployed?
Not through the definition that StatsCan uses but from
the point of view of our community, it's difficult to
label people as being unemployed or employed in this
So you can see here that for all males the
participation rate has been going down, and even more so
for the low skilled. There's a tendency to pull out of
the labour force the lower skilled you are.
Interestingly enough, it's important to distinguish
between women and men throughout this type of analysis, because
again women have a very different situation. The
participation rate for older woman has been increasing,
or declining very slightly.
In terms of the relative situation of the lower-educated
worker versus the higher-educated worker,
this is an index of average
earnings. It shows basically that the earnings
of older workers have been increasing over the last 15
years, though marginally. They're barely above the 1981
level, five percentage points above. But in the case of the
low-educated, low-skilled workers, they've been declining from what
they were in 1981. So there's a gap opening up on the basis of
education among older workers.
What's interesting too is that older, less-educated
workers face a higher risk of being permanently off
from a full-time job. So those who have less than
a high-school education in fact assume 56% of the lay-offs
among older workers here, although they represent only 33%
of the older workers in the population in general.
Another interesting thing is that even though older
workers don't tend to be laid off much more than
others, when they are laid off they have much more
difficulty finding jobs than younger age groups.
You didn't need someone from HRDC to say that; it's common
You'll be glad to know that it does show in the statistics that it's
in fact the core of the issue. They're not worse off than any other
group for being laid off, but when they're laid off the difficulties
start. This is true irrespective of the education level. It's less
true for people with university...but if you have low skills, of
course it is even more true.
There are many barriers to hiring older workers and they are fairly
well known. One barrier is that the average level of education is
In the last few years we've been able to test
Canadians and workers from other countries for their
literacy skills. Education is not always a good proxy
for what people know or the literacy skills they have,
broadly defined. We've been able to measure directly
through surveys the literacy level of workers.
As you can see from here, there's a huge proportion of workers
55 years and over who don't have the basic literacy level
necessary to perform in entry-level jobs. It's been
established that entry-level jobs need literacy skill
level three. You can see on this chart that more than
60% of the 55-year-olds-plus don't have the
necessary literacy skills.
We also see that employers offer less training for older
workers and that these workers are less inclined to take training
on their own, through night courses or otherwise.
There have been a few surveys about employers'
perceptions of older workers. These are
small-scale surveys. They are not national surveys,
but they point to certain interesting facts.
This one, for instance, asks small and large firms what
constitutes employment barriers. It is
the vice-presidents of human resources in these companies
who have answered those questions. It may represent
the perception of the vice-president, not the
perception of the company, but what they say is that
being older is a barrier to being hired, and so is being a
woman, being a visible minority, being disabled is a very high
one, and being aboriginal. And it is less so for big
companies; the yellow line is the big companies versus
the small companies.
The problem with older workers according to employers
is that they lack the education and training. That's
the most popular answer we're getting. There are
also high wage expectation issues and a series of other
factors. But the one that comes out clearly is that
older workers are perceived as lacking the necessary skills.
Another barrier for older workers is the issue of
mobility. This chart shows the interprovincial
mobility rate. You can see that the older you get the less
mobile you become, and in fact the mobility rate of
the 55-year-olds and over is very low. We found also that
the mobility rate among sectors and occupations is much
lower among older workers.
When we turn to the retirement decision, again, it's not a complete
analysis, it's just a few facts. This is a part that is very
difficult to understand, because we don't have a clear notion of what
the real motivations are behind retirement. Is it the fact that
people can afford it? Is it a matter of choices, quality of life, or
is it because they lose a job and they cannot find another one? Many
people who lose their job and cannot find another one would prefer to
say that they made that choice. That's where it gets blurry in terms
of the real reason why people are retiring at the age they are
retiring, especially among the low-skilled.
On the following chart, in terms of the average age of retirement, by
age group, we have observed both men and women falling quite
dramatically through the last 20 years or so. You may not be able to
see this chart very well, but it is in your package that we
distributed. This is quite interesting. It gets me excited; I don't
know whether it gets others excited.
You can see on this chart that the period of
retirement has increased tremendously in a very short
period of time. This is 1960. In 35 years, the
average period of retirement—that's between the time
you leave the workforce and the time you die—went from
something like a few years for a male—boy, it was
tough—to about 12 or 15 years on average; I don't have
the exact number. For a woman it went from about 10
years to almost double that. This is in a very short
period of human life, due both to the fact that life
expectations have increased and the retirement age
It is quite interesting to look at the issue of the
aging of the population. I know it's not the topic of
today, but it's related to the issue of the older
It's worth mentioning that in a transition now to
retirement there seem to be behaviours among older
workers to use part-time work, non-standard types of
work, to bridge the period between full-time work and
retirement. So we see a slow increase in the incidence
of part-time work among older workers.
We also see an increase in the incidence of
Far more people aged 55 and over are turning to self-employment or
In terms of the motivation for retirement, as I say,
it's very difficult to sort out. We have some surveys
that try to ask people, but the question is, are you to
believe all the answers you're getting?
Retirement is still involuntary for many. Sometimes
it's health, sometimes it's unemployment. There seems
to be an increase in voluntary retirement.
There are some early retirement
incentives that have been very popular lately, as you
know, which means more people were able financially to
retire. But there's a bit of both here, and it's very
difficult to tell you x% is voluntary and
x% is involuntary. There is a big grey zone in
trying to sort out those two causes.
I'll leave it at that for the basic facts.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton,
Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Voyer.
Ms. Glynnis French: Mr. Chair, shall we continue,
or are there questions from the committee at this
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): No, I think
we would probably receive the presentations and then do
Ms. Glynnis French: Okay, fine. Serge, you're
up next. I guess we're going to turn the lights
Mr. Serge Bertrand (Director, Evaluation Services,
Evaluation and Data Development, Strategic Policy,
Department of Human Resources Development): No, because I
don't have detailed charts and graphs like Jean-Pierre,
and you've received copies of the deck. I think I would
rather speak to you about it. You have received
English and French copies. So I will just talk about
it, because I don't have detailed numbers to show.
This deck is entitled “Measures for Older Workers in
OECD Countries”. The first point I would like to make
is that at HRDC, we study and examine the effectiveness
of programs and policies that have been put in place in
Canada and in other countries to deal with specific
clientele or policy issues. We constantly monitor
these studies of their programs and studies that
analyse the effectiveness of various kinds of
policies and programs to deal with issues.
We've conducted such studies in the past on issues
such as policy and programs for youth and disabled
people. Right now we have a study underway on policies
and programs to address older workers. In the time
allocated to me I cannot review the detailed
country-by-country results, but these results will be
available later and can be discussed in more detail at
future meetings if you're interested.
What I would like to do today is give you a fairly
high-level overview of our findings to date on what
other countries have done and where there seems to be a
bigger impact or better effectiveness of these kinds of
The first observation we made after reviewing several
countries, including our own—I think we've
reviewed maybe 10 countries, and we're talking about
countries of course such as the U.S., England, France,
Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands, so it's a fairly
extensive review—is that in terms of active measures,
there are a very limited number of programs, here and
abroad, specifically designed or targeted to
help older workers adjust to economic and structural
changes, very few. The majority of programs that OECD
countries have been using are not the active types of
The second important observation is that within the
current mix of programs targeted and available to older
workers, we found that participation of older workers
in these programs has been extremely low, here and in
other countries. So there is for some reason a lack of
interest among the targeted clientele in participating
in the active measures.
The third observation is that the success of the
programs we've examined depends on the ability of the
program to recognize and address the specific
individual needs of the older worker. There are all
kinds of programs, but we've grouped them into three
major areas. One is what we call early retirement and,
maybe in a more pejorative way, passive measures. The
other kind of measure is what we call gradual
withdrawal or transition measures from job to
retirement—a bridging period. And of course, in the
third area are the more active measures, which basically
target full-time members who are fully active in the
I would now like to review briefly each one of these
broad types of measures. What is referred to as passive
income support, basically early retirement measures,
are temporary measures that provide financial support
to bridge the gap between job loss and re-employment.
Basically these measures have the objective of
providing sufficient income until a normal retirement
age is reached. So it's a fairly straightforward kind
of measure. This is the kind of measure that most OECD
countries have responded with when faced with
displaced worker or older worker issues. That's
basically true in Europe. France in particular has
responded with this kind of broad policy.
There are a couple of examples of more specific
measures under this category. For example, UI or
unemployment benefits have been extended for some
period of time with some of the conditions for
eligibility being waived, such as the condition of
actively looking for a job. These measures have been
used in France, Germany, the U.K., Denmark, and the
Netherlands, for example.
Another kind of program—and these are only examples
or variations along this theme, but they have been used
in different ways—is a disability insurance scheme
that basically broadens the eligibility criteria for
disability programs, again with the objective of
providing income support to fill the time between the
job loss and the time a client is fully eligible for a
pension. There are more variations on how they are
used, but those are the broad measures.
Basically these measures work well. They're
effective for ensuring financial security for those who
have lost their jobs and they do what they're supposed
to do: they provide income. On the other hand, they
have the disadvantage of creating a disincentive for
people to regain work or to train to get back into
employment. Also, one of the things about the more
passive program measures is that they are expensive to
maintain and very difficult to modify—to reduce
benefits or to eliminate the programs—and I think this
is what they have experienced in France.
The second type of measure is transition from work to
retirement. Again, this is designed to bridge work and
retirement and it combines both active and passive
measures. These measures have also been used in some
countries. They have been used in Canada, among other
countries. An example of that is phase-in retirement,
which allows the worker to decrease the hours of work
while supplementing their income with partial pension
benefits. This has been used in Sweden, Denmark,
Luxembourg, and Germany. In Canada we had a program of
this nature that was an experimental program in New
Brunswick—the Job Corps program.
Again, there are all kinds of variations on that
theme. From what I've looked at in Japan, for example,
they were very imaginative and creative in developing
such a measure, but the cultural context is very
For example, there are some programs that allow people
at the more executive level to work in areas of less
responsibility, which has the benefit of creating a
mentoring process while opening jobs for younger
workers. But this requires a cultural environment that
may not be suitable everywhere.
One of the disadvantages observed with this program is
that for many older workers there seems to be a stigma
associated with this kind of part-time employment with lower
The third area is what we refer to as active
employment measures, and of course these measures are
designed to prolong labour market participation. As I
was saying at the beginning, these kinds of programs
that are targeted at the older worker are very limited
in OECD countries we've reviewed. There aren't that
many programs of this nature.
Active measures for the worker can include and consist
basically of training, job placement, counselling,
and providing remedial education background. These
programs have been used in the U.S., Australia, Japan,
Germany and most other OECD countries. They can
also take the form of wage subsidies, where basically
you provide the subsidy to the employer to hire older
workers; and these programs have been used, for
example, in France, Australia and Japan.
What we have observed with active measures in Canada,
when you look at the most recent evaluation of the
programs when they were managed by the department, is
that basically again we found at first that in Canada
it was the same thing: participation in this program
was low. However, the latest evaluation shows that
they were fairly successful. Older workers were doing
as well as other clients who were under this kind of
training program for additional skills, but one of the
important determinants of success for the older worker
is that they needed the basic educational background
before they could go into these training programs. We
were not so successful with older workers who were
missing this basic educational background.
The message there is that to go with active measures in this sense we
need very good targeting on the basic requirements of older workers
and their educational background. Also, these programs need to be
tailored specifically for the needs of older workers.
Basically, as I was saying, countries have responded with active
measures, not with active measures targeted at the older worker but
basically using mainstream programs and considering the needs of older
workers in the mainstream programs. In a very high-level summary,
these are the key findings that came out of our reviews from programs
used in other countries, and there are advantages and disadvantages in
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Merci beaucoup,
Ms. Glynnis French: I'll wrap up the HRDC presentation with a few
As you are likely aware, unemployment does remain the
single most important concern of Canadians, and has been
for the last three years. A Focus Canada survey in
December 1998 found that Canadians are still very
concerned about the issue of unemployment, and there's
general sympathy for the situation of unemployed older
workers since they normally have a long-standing
attachment to the labour force and are considered to
have paid their dues. And they're often displaced
through labour market forces that are really beyond
As you know, POWA was terminated in 1997, and it was ended because it
was not fair or equitable to older workers. It was a cost-shared
program that was only offered in some provinces and had so many
restrictions that many older workers simply could not qualify. The
program offered only passive income support and did nothing to help
workers adapt to the changing economy. The Government of Canada is
shifting its support to active employment assistance to help workers
reintegrate into the workforce, and the provinces are also moving in
the same direction.
An aging society, as we can see from our statistics, does point
towards increasing the importance of older workers as an integral part
of the labour force of the future.
Older workers are a joint responsibility of both the federal and
provincial governments. Labour market development agreements
recognize the joint federal-provincial responsibilities in the area of
labour market programming. The Government of Canada is continuing to
build on the framework of cooperation that has been established
through labour market development agreements and also through the
social union framework agreement, which commits the government to
consultation and working in partnership with provinces on social
issues of all kinds.
An example of the federal-provincial partnerships
specifically in the area of older workers is through
the Forum of Labour Market Ministers, which
Minister Pettigrew co-chairs with Julie Bettney of
Newfoundland. The Forum of Labour Market Ministers
identified older workers as a key research priority, and
a working group on this issue of older workers has been
established. The group has just been recently
initiated; it's starting with developing a
diagnostic of labour market issues faced by older
workers and it will outline relevant policy issues.
We're looking forward to the results that will come
forward from that working group.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you very
We'll begin a series of questions with Mrs. Ablonczy.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Ref.):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This was a good introductory presentation. We appreciate it.
My understanding, and perhaps you'll correct if you have better
figures, is that we'll have 40% more seniors by the year 2030, as our
population ages due to the aging of the baby boomers. I'm not one of
those of course, but some of us here are.
My first question is, does this aging population mean the labour
market problems of older workers will continue to be a growing concern
to us? Is this an issue that's emerging or that's going to become of
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: One thing we have to take
into consideration.... First, you mentioned 2010?
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: By the year 2030, 40% by
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: By 2030 about
22% to 23% of the whole Canadian population will be
65 and over. That compares to around 12% today.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: So it is at least 40% more?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Yes, at least, if not a bit
On the aging of the population, the challenges
it brings about is a shrinkage of the cohorts who are
currently thought of as the primary workforce. So
shrinkage of the 24 to 65 cohorts, fewer people in that
bulk, more after 65, will increase of course the
dependency ratio, the fact that the supporting burden,
if you want, of the working to.... One thing that will
happen in terms of the older workers, according to
some, is that in 10 to 20 years from now the problem
will be much smaller because we are now seeing a
generation that is much more educated.
I didn't show that slide, but as we all age as a
population, the proportion of people who have a high
education will become much higher thanks to the
investment we made 20 years ago in post-secondary
education and the like. So there's this phenomenon that
will temper the problem. People will get older,
but in a way the new
cohorts who are coming in have more skills.
There is a warning, though. There is a question to be
concerned about, which is that research shows people
tend to lose their skills as they grow older. This is
not only technical skills with respect to a specific
job; this is about literacy skills, general reading
and writing. Of course, if you have a PhD in physics,
you're likely to be able to keep some of those skills,
but for those who have only a high school diploma or a
few years more, they get into habits that don't
encourage the preservation of those skills.
If we do some simple calculations, we can see that the
depletion of skills is enough to wipe out the gains
we're making through higher education if we're
not careful. We suggest that there's a lot of
prevention to be done right now in terms of
collectively learning to keep up our skills as we age.
The bulk of the loss of skills happens between the
time you leave school and age 40. It keeps going
down after 40, but less so.
So I bring a few considerations to your questions.
They're more contextual than precise, I realize that.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: No, that was very helpful.
When you gave your report, you mentioned the studies on
the potential problem the aging workforce is going to
have as kind of a big grey zone—I think those were
your words. Then Glynnis mentioned the working group
that's been set up, so I guess we're in the process of
having a better study of those things.
Glynnis, what is the reporting timeframe of this
working group? When will we have a little more
information in this area?
Ms. Glynnis French: That's a good question, because
being a federal-provincial group in part, the
timeframe will be jointly determined. The working
group itself has just recently been established, so I'm
not sure if they're really at the point of setting out
exactly when there will be reports specifically on
In terms of the diagnostics, they will be building on
the material you've heard today and then trying to move
very quickly from that into the kinds of policy
concerns we should think about in the
federal-provincial context. I expect there will be
some feedback from that group within the next six
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: So really this committee's
study is in a bit of a vacuum at this point.
Ms. Glynnis French: I think your study could feed
into that process very valuably.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: In spite of our declining
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I just have one more quick
question, if I have time. Serge mentioned that the
programs targeting older workers were limited and that we're
just kind of moving to decide what programs are needed.
I think we all have constituents aged 55 and over
who have come to us with difficulties in this area. An
example is a 60-year-old woman who had her own company,
in partnership with someone, doing geological,
technological analysis, but because of the downturn in
the mining industry the company couldn't stay viable.
This lady is 60, with good computer skills and a good
scientific mind, but is simply unable to find work. I'm
sure there are many such examples. What programs, if
any, would be available to assist this woman in making
the transition to other employment?
Ms. Glynnis French: Perhaps I can answer that. If
she's self-employed, which means she has no previous
work experience, she doesn't fall into the employment
insurance category, so there definitely is a vacuum.
That's certainly one of the areas we will be looking at
from the policy perspective of what occurs for those
people who, if you like, don't seem to fit into the
Certainly labour market programming, supported by the
federal government, has tended to deal with employment
insurance clients as the primary client group. There
are other programs for the self-employed, but I think
what you're explaining is a situation where somebody
is self-employed and then decides they need to move
into the regular labour force.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I really appreciate those
answers. Thank you.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you.
Next is Madam Gagnon.
Ms. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ): I would like to ask Mr.
Voyer a question. You reported on the labour market situation of
older workers, and I appreciate all your work.
Although you have compiled statistics on people who have
decided to retire, you do not seem to know why they retired. Did
they retire because they were having trouble finding a new job, or
because they wanted to retire? I think this is a very important
piece of information. If they were forced to retire because they
couldn't find a new job, that may tell us that other workers
without resources may also have trouble finding a job.
This explains why, in some cases, only active and passive
measures can help these workers meet their basic needs. Without
this indicator, we will not have a good understanding of the
problems faced by some workers when they try to get back in the
labour market. We must be very aware of this aspect. People have
been laid off for all sorts of reasons, because the natural
resource of a region is no longer available, because new
technologies have replaced manual work, and so on.
You spoke about years of education. Twenty years from now, we
may realize that people's education was too narrow. There may be
individuals who cannot work outside their specific field—they will
be too specialized. They may have mastered the new technology, but
in 20 or 40 years, we may have to think about building a society
based more on people. We may be able to make good use of people's
skills, but, on the other hand, we may have a hard time doing that.
We may be missing some aspects here that it would be good to know
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Let me go back to the last chart, which
I described a little quickly.
We already have this information, because it was collected in
the course of Statistics Canada's national survey. Although it
dates back a few years, I am assuming it is reliable.
The green section of the histogram shows that most of the
people decided to retire voluntarily. Many of these individuals
made a personal choice, although this section is a bit of a catch-
all category. Of the people who did not retire voluntarily, some
suffered from health problems, and some were forced into the
Ms. Christiane Gagnon: Where do they appear exactly?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: They are the first ones here. There
were also some others who were offered departure incentives.
Ms. Christiane Gagnon: I see.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: But there was another residual
category, that does not appear on the graph. Although we
distinguish between voluntary and involuntary choice, we should not
deceive ourselves: we must realize that some people claimed they
retired voluntarily, when in fact they had no choice. It is easier
for them to say that they retired voluntarily than to say that they
could not find a job. There is much less stigma attached to that.
These people are therefore forced to live on a minimal income. Who
knows whether they have enough income to survive? That is a
That is why I am saying that there is a grey area, and I would
caution you. Although we have these data, we have to ask how useful
they really are.
As to the issue of specialized education as opposed to a
general education, there are some interesting things happening.
Young people are often told to study science and to head into some
very specific fields. However, we are starting to realize that the
unemployment rate among people with degrees in science is higher
than among people with degrees in humanities—the very generalists
who were told they would not be able to find a job. We have to be
careful about all these myths. What does the future hold? Most
researchers agree that people with skills in the basics such as
English, reading and understanding will be well equipped to deal
with the future. People with these basic skills will be able to
These days, a high school diploma is no longer enough. In the
class, students were told that they should finish high school, that
that was the minimum. We are reviewing these criteria, because that
is no longer enough. Our institutions may have to consider
extending education for a few more years to give people enough
skills so that they do not end up becoming older, unskilled
Ms. Christiane Gagnon: I have one final question.
Are you recommending that we keep a program like POWA, in
order to meet the needs of people living in regions where layoffs
have occurred? During the winter, I was watching the program La
Mine BC, which showed all the workers taking a basic algebra and
mathematics course in order to get back into the labour market.
These workers said they didn't think the courses would be that
helpful, because they were older and almost on the point of
retiring. However, they knew they needed to earn enough income to
Do we need a program like POWA? Perhaps a wall-to-wall program
is not the answer, but do we need to try to establish a program
that produces better results for older people who cannot find a new
job? They could get back into the labour market if they had
training or an apprenticeship program in a company. We know,
however, that some of these people will not be able to go back into
the labour force, and that they will become the new poor, because
they will not have any income.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Governments must weigh a number of
options. As my colleague pointed out, the government has decided to
move away from strictly passive measures that have proven costly
and often ineffective and guarantee only a minimum income to
workers. These measures aren't able to restore conditions similar
to ones that people enjoyed before their lives were disrupted and
their community hit with massive layoffs.
Surely there are other options that can be considered, such
as, as you mentioned, manpower training programs. However, as my
colleague pointed out, these programs work is some cases, but don't
when individuals haven't acquired basic skills.
We want to look at new options. For instance, we hear a lot
said in Quebec about the social economy. Our department is
currently looking at a number of pilot projects, including one
where, in co-operation with the Nova Scotia government, unemployed
workers would be given an opportunity to earn more than the minimum
wage by doing community work for three years, instead of receiving
EI benefits. This project is still in the experimental stage. This
alternative approach would help to erase the stigma associated with
the passive approach which consists of giving people a cheque and
demanding nothing further of them. Persons involved in the project
would be asked to do productive community work, but would not
necessarily be included in the traditional economy. We are working
with the Nova Scotia government to implement this program in Cape
Breton. We have requested the support of local communities because
of course such an initiative would not be possible without their
backing. This is the type of approach we want to consider together
with the provinces, and within the framework of the committee the
minister spoke of.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you
Mr. Serge Bertrand: I'd just like to clarify a few things. In
New Brunswick, we have already set up a program similar to the one
Jean-Pierre described, the Job Corps Program. It's important to
remember that programs like these are effective to the extent that
reintegrating the labour market isn't viewed as the only measure of
their success. A range of factors must be considered.
The New Brunswick program has been effective. For example, the
program's impact on health care was measured and many factors were
considered, not simply the employment figures. Some programs have
truly proven to be effective.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you
Your presentation has prompted considerable enthusiasm
on the Liberal side to ask questions, such that I'm having
difficulty choosing. I'm going to give the floor to
Mr. Coderre, but Mr. Alcock is going to get more time.
Mr. Denis Coderre: It's Quebec bashing again, is it?
Mr. Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South, Lib.): It seems fair to me.
Mr. Denis Coderre: I'd like to talk about perceptions, since
it's also your role to discuss strategic policy. We don't always
deal with statistics, but rather with average people. POWA targeted
workers 55 years of age and older and the average age of those
involved in the production of the program La Mine BC was 52 years.
There is a gap between workers who are 52 years old and those who
are 55 years old.
My sense today is that everything is moving very fast, perhaps
even too fast, and that people in a certain age group are having
trouble adapting to change. I would say that we are dealing with
two age groups: the baby-boomers, who are more highly educated, and
those 55 years and older who tend more to be blue-collar workers.
Given the impact of technological change, I think we should
adjust the program so that it applies to persons aged 50 and over.
I sense that the generation gap is widening, and this affects the
policies we adopt. I'd be interested in hearing your views on this
Secondly, I'd like the provinces to initiate a dialogue among
themselves. Sometimes, there are problems between rural and urban
regions. Increasingly, our government is moving away from strictly
passive measures. However, it will need to resort to both types of
approaches - passive as well as active - to achieve its objective
of reintegrating older workers into the labour market. We must also
recognize that there will always be persons who unfortunately, will
never find their way back into the market and who will need to be
taken care of. When unemployment figures drop, it's partly because
these individuals are no longer factored into the equation. The
result is significant gaps in society. We mustn't lose sight of the
fact that our job is to ensure that these individuals enjoy a
decent standard of living.
My second, and final, question concerns the impact of the
labour force agreement between the provinces. We talk about the
Social Union Framework. Quebec, for reasons that are well known,
did not sign this agreement. However, the truth of the matter
is—and we're not the ones saying it, but rather certain experts
and editorial writers like Claude Picher—that as far as Quebec is
concerned, the labour force agreement is a disaster because of
cutbacks, the gradual decline of the CFP and so forth. Have you
analysed how the age of workers impacts new policies and what the
effect of the labour agreement between Quebec and Ottawa has been?
Mr. Serge Bertrand: I can provide an answer to your second
question because it relates to the work we have been doing
assessing the impact of these agreements. When these labour market
development agreements were signed, we agreed that their
implementation should be evaluated during the first year and their
impact on clients during the third year.
We are currently doing the first year evaluations in all of
the provinces. We are primarily looking at how these agreements are
being implementing and trying to determine, among other things, if
certain client groups, as we call them, have either fallen through
the cracks or been left out. The results aren't in yet, but you can
rest assured that we have taken steps to address these questions.
Mr. Denis Coderre: I understand.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: As for your initial comments, many
important factors come into play and I don't think I can shed any
new light on this matter. How should we define baby-boomers? Are
they persons 55 years of age and older? In that case, we're not
talking about former hippies, but about former beatniks. That's
going back quite a few years.
As for the generation gap, a number of income-related studies
have been done. These have revealed that problems are more
prevalent among members of the same generation than among persons
from different generations. Inequities are more striking within
each generation. Young people may have been the exception recently,
particularly during the decade of the 1990s. Therefore, I can't say
that I agree with you.
However, as far the differences between urban and rural
populations, we don't have enough information because statistics
are hard to come by in rural areas and the statistical samples are
small. In my view, it goes both ways. Is a low-skilled older worker
better off living in a rural community than in an urban community?
There's no obvious answer to that question. It's like asking poor
people whether they're better off living in the country or in the
city. Some argue that when you're poor, you can enjoy a better
standard of living in the country than you can in the city. I
really can't say, one way or the other.
Mr. Denis Coderre: That would help us understand better,
because without that information, the statistics can be distorted.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Absolutely. We do not have enough
information. You are quite right.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you very
much. Mr. Alcock.
Mr. Reg Alcock: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you. I found the presentations interesting.
I have an observation and a question about a specific
policy I'm interested in. In some of the slides you
talked about the declining age of retirement. I'm
wondering if part of that could be a by-product of the
fact that in the late 1950s and early 1960s we began a
whole series of pension plans and such within the
public sector and large companies that
are only now beginning to pay out. I know a
number of folks who have benefited from that. I know
teachers who were able to retire at 55 and who were quite
willing and happy to retire. In fact, the behaviour
shown in a recent Disney commercial about saying
goodbye to the kid and getting out of town is not that
So I just wonder if there isn't some
influence there, that it's not all the kind of gloomy,
gee, I've been forced out.
In addition, there are military policemen and
others who may start working very early, retire at a relatively
early age, and start a new career. They would show up as
retired at an early age, but they would go on to work in a
I was just a little uncertain from your
presentation as to whether that increase is a result of
the success of a certain basket of programs
introduced in the early 1960s or
representative of something we should be more worried
I ask this next question in part because I see that
all three of you are involved in strategic policy,
applied research, labour market, and data development.
As the workplace is evolving and the pace of change is
increasing, it is often suggested that a worker today
is going to have two, three, four careers
throughout their life, and the need to step out of the
labour force, to avail oneself of some retraining, and
to step back into the labour force is something that
gets commented on over and over again.
I've heard discussions at this committee about this whole issue of
lifelong learning. Does the department have a position, a policy, or
a perspective on lifelong learning? Are you working on something? Is
there a proposal coming forward? Has there been some development of
the department's thinking around this whole issue and how it might be
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: We're going back a bit to the question
Madame Gagnon asked. There are, no doubt, two factors in the trend.
One is an increase in involuntary retirement because of labour market
conditions, people who go because they don't have any choice and they
don't have the skills. But the other part is that people can afford
it. Why can they afford it? In large part it's because of what you
just said. The public and private pension schemes that were put
together are now starting to kick in.
Our public programs in this area have improved so much that, in fact,
I think one thing that Canada has succeeded in eradicating is old age
poverty. That is due in large part to the public programs. So that
also helps people make a decision, because they have more security
towards the future when they know those programs are in place.
Indeed, a good part of it is as you say. I cannot say how much. Is
it half and half, or two-thirds and one-third? We all know these
things are there.
On the training and retraining, the three or four careers, again we
believe in lifelong learning, perhaps not in the notion that we were
told a few years ago, that you are going to have five or six careers.
This may be more true of politicians than public servants. A lot of
people do change their occupation, but within a very narrow scope. We
don't see the shift happening, the drastic kind, such as going from a
lawyer to becoming a programmer; that's not what we see in the
We are big believers in lifelong learning, and I'll let my colleague
talk about what we're up to.
Ms. Glynnis French: I'd like to underline what J.-P. Voyer has
said, that we are very concerned about lifelong learning. We've done
a lot of analysis of the issue of what the key points of intervention
are and what could possibly be the most successful ways of intervening
during the life cycle.
As you know, lifelong learning really starts as early
as childhood. Some people are saying that in the first
six years of life the neurological patterns are
established that allow a person to learn throughout
their life. That is certainly one of the issues that
the federal government is concerned about.
Obviously when we talk about lifelong learning, the
federal government is committed to the concept, but we
do need to work through a federal-provincial context,
because many of the levers to promote learning rest
with provincial governments; they're within provincial
jurisdictions. One of the best predictors of
successful outcomes is success in the K-to-12 years.
Certainly the federal government has its emphasis in
learning through, for example, the labour market
development agreements, which have their focus on
training and retraining. We're concerned, from a
policy point of view, about the fact that Canada really
measures in the middle of other countries in relation
to the degree to which workplaces, companies
themselves, participate in learning activities for
their workers. The issue is, are there further
incentives, further ways in which we could lever better
workplace training than we have today? Certainly those
kinds of issues are always under consideration.
Mr. Reg Alcock: Mr. Voyer had indicated a break
point between the time the department handed off
programs to the provinces. I wonder if in the
active measures for older workers you have the data
that allows you to look at variations in the success,
given companion provincial programs or provincial
programs picking up, whether you see any variability
across the country, with some people being more
successful than others?
I believe that in some of the lifelong learning proposals there was a
suggestion I had heard discussed here about the possibility of using
the UI entitlements as an opportunity to step out of the labour force
while receiving some support and taking some training. I wonder if
the department has a position on that.
Ms. Glynnis French: I wouldn't really want to
speak to a policy initiative in place, but as to
whether that is an issue the government is
considering, the government considers all kinds of
policy issues, including that one. Certainly work is
being undertaken to look at the feasibility of
potentially using EI or other mechanisms for promoting
Before I pass on the issue of effectiveness to Serge, I'd like to
remind everybody that the federal government has made tremendous
investments in lifelong learning through the Canada opportunities
strategy, with encouragement of post-secondary education,
particularly. The results in Canada are very clearly that the
government has been tremendously successful with those kinds of
investments in terms of bringing up the general levels of education in
this country significantly over the past 20 years, and those of course
are strong predictors of success in the workplace.
Mr. Serge Bertrand: On the LMDAs, again, as
I indicated, the work is underway with provinces. We
are starting to get results right now. So I cannot
basically answer before we have the full results of all
provinces. We should have that within the next year
probably, and in a future report it will be mentioned.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you.
I have both Mr. Wilfert and Mr. O'Reilly. We're
going to go across and then come back over. We have
quite a bit of time left.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Wanuskewin, Ref.): Back in
the budget in February 1998 the government announced
the possibility of withdrawing RRSPs for lifelong
learning. You could use that to finance education in
the future. I'm not sure who would be the appropriate
person to respond, but do you think that's a helpful
kind of thing in terms of individuals with low skills,
lower-income workers? Is that an answer to a...?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: There is perhaps a place
for more to be done in this area and there are
different schemes being looked at. Your question is
about whether or not we should complement that.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: Yes. I'm asking you
is it a kind of policy response coming out of HRDC
that there be this? Is that at the instance
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: We're looking at some
schemes, but Glynnis could answer further.
Ms. Glynnis French: As you mentioned, in the 1998
budget there was a provision introduced where
individuals could withdraw from their RRSP to undertake
training and then repay it over a five-year period.
We're probably not best placed, because we're in the
policy world, to talk about the effectiveness and the
degree to which Canadians have taken up that program,
but there are certainly other people within the
department who could tell you about the statistics and
I think we are concerned about whether or not that
would be the best mechanism for encouraging people to
undertake lifelong learning from a policy point of
view, and we're looking at how effective it has
been and whether there are other mechanisms where
you're not replacing one sort of incentive—in
other words, to save for retirement—with another. So
we need to have a look at that. I think we're not
really at the end of that process of examining its
effectiveness and even knowing to what extent people
are taking up that offer.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: Would you have any
speculations in terms of how that would pertain to
low-skilled, low-income people?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: The current measure is
clearly not a target for the low skilled.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: You mean withdrawing RRSPs?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Yes. First you have to
have an RRSP. We all know that the large majority of
low-income people don't have RRSPs. So that's problematic.
The concept of the measure I think is one that should
perhaps...and we're looking at that transposed,
whether it's EI or another source of funds.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: Right.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: But clearly there is a
problem now, there is a bit of a gap, because this
measure will not get at the very low skilled. And if
we want a lifelong learning policy for all, then
we have to look into other schemes, complementary
schemes, that are a bit on the same design.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: This would be more to the
advantage of those who have higher skills, RRSPs and so
on, I take it.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: The current ones, you say?
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: The 1998 one.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Not necessarily. The jury
is out. The evaluation that the Department of Finance
and HRDC will do of that scheme will show.... There is
also reason to believe that highly skilled people will
not use it either, because they may not be in a lifelong learning
culture. A lot of us are not considering
breaking off what we're doing now and going to
university for two years. Maybe it's more the
middle-income people, the lower-middle-income people.
I think the jury is
out. But it's clear that if you don't have any RRSPs
it's not useful, and we know low-income people have a very low
incidence of RRSPs.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: Thank you.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Thank you.
Along that line, Serge, you presented some interesting material about
what's been done in other countries with the passing of the
transitional income support and the active measures, and we talked a
little bit earlier about the rate at which our population is aging.
My question is on this study group that Glynnis mentioned. Is part of
that study going to be arriving at some idea of the cost of different
measures that are being used in other countries in the context of the
Ms. Glynnis French: I'm not sure they've come to
that point, but it's an interesting twist on the issue.
I think it certainly is one that bears looking at,
and I would take it back as an issue they might want to
I think the bottom line is that passive
income support tends to be very expensive, and the issue
from a policy perspective is really whether that is what
you want to do with older workers, or whether you want to
somehow reintegrate them and make them active and
participating members of society. So there is a
fundamental question there as well as a cost question.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I understand that. There are
also transitional measures and active measures,
particularly in light of the fact that the workforce
supporting the cost of these would be a younger
workforce that is shrinking. There are going to be
fewer people supporting these generous measures. I
think we really do have to know before we come up with
some compassionate and generous measures whether it's
actually doable in terms of the guys who are going to
have to earn and cough up the money.
The other question I have is this. We talked a little bit
about people who, instead of seeking other employment,
simply decide to retire, and there were some kind words
about how well we are eradicating poverty among older
Canadians and how generous the support is. But of course
the fact of the matter is that I wouldn't want to
retire on what I would get from the Canada Pension Plan, and
I've paid in since I was 19 so I assume I'd have the
maximum. I have no private pension, including the MP
Mr. John O'Reilly (Haliburton—Victoria—Brock,
Lib.): Ten years isn't that long.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I know. It hasn't been that
long. Thank you. You're just wonderful.
No private pension. The old age security is pretty well not
available to anybody with some savings, which would be a lot of
Canadians or some Canadians, and of course the guaranteed income
supplement isn't high wages either.
So my question is, if you're 55-plus and you can't get a job, you
can't get the skills or transfer the skills you already have, how
realistic is it to say, well, we have a generous social benefit anyway
so it doesn't really matter; just go ahead and retire. Is that really
realistic? I question that, and I'd like to know whether you agree
with me or whether you want to challenge that.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: I'll take this one because
I want to make one observation.
I'll come back to the observation after, but I think it's important
that, given your interest in the aging of the population, you seem to
really look at the issue from that perspective. It's in everyone's
judgment as to how much money you need for your retirement, and if the
alternative is between—
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: It's not just judgment. There
are certain necessities of life you have to have.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Absolutely, it's deciding
whether to be working poor versus passive poor.
What I suggest is that the decision is easier because
we have a safety net system than if we didn't have any.
It depends on the alternatives. For someone who's
had a good wage and probably has a good pension
scheme anyway, this is not an alternative of course. And
it's not the alternative. But for someone who has low
skills and is working at a low wage, the step is not as large
and it may provide a bit more....
I'm saying that in many cases the decision to work may be preferable,
but given the difficulties, people may get discouraged
and say, well, in the end I can cut on this or cut on
that and I'll make out.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: There may not be a real
economic advantage to the struggle.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Absolutely not. But then
that's why I want to come back to your question.
We have some research going on about the aging of the population.
There's been a lot of work done at the OECD. We've done a lot of work
ourselves, perhaps more so on older workers precisely, on what are the
implications. One of the conclusions that come up quite clearly is
that Canada has a lot of time to turn the corner, that is, we're not
going to get into a problem of aging as fast as Europe, Japan and
other countries like that.
The real issue at this time is to find ways to keep people in the
labour force longer. We cannot force people to work if they have a
preference not to, in a sense, and they can afford it.
Many areas of public policy and programs remain that could be played
with a bit to make sure there are no barriers. We've talked about
partial retirement, partial work. The structure of the pension scheme
may need to be looked at so that everyone who has a desire or a
preference to work should be able to work. This is not only because
of the principle of it, which is nice in itself, but also because the
mechanics of it are important for the public finance of the country in
20 years. The incentive for people to stay in the workforce is
something that comes out of all of our studies on aging.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: In other words, we may need
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Absolutely.
Mr. Serge Bertrand: Can I just add another fact? When we discuss
the problem economically we deal with it as a supply-type problem
only. We talk about the workers. The debate also has to take into
account what the labour market conditions and the economy will be like
in 10 or 15 years. That is also very important. When we look at
other countries and how they've dealt with the problem, we see that
the state of their economy has to some extent dictated what they did.
For instance, what they did in Japan was done in such a way because
they had almost full employment and they went a certain way. In
Europe, where there was perhaps higher unemployment, they went another
So I think it's also something to keep in the back of our minds: what
the situation will be 10 or 15 years from now also has to be part of
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: That's a very good point. We
can't look at these things in isolation. Thank you.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you
Mr. Wilfert, please.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Oak Ridges, Lib.): Thank you,
Mr. Chairman. I'm sorry I was late, but I was tabling a
report in the House and unfortunately nothing ever goes
as planned, so it was much longer than expected.
I'm sorry I missed most, if not all, of your
I am very interested in this issue.
When I read that there's a very limited number of programs designed
specifically for older workers, I wonder to what degree we use
demographics accurately or at all in the government, because there's
no surprise that we are going to have older workers. Whether or not
you read Dr. Foot's work on 2000 in Boom, Bust and Echo, you
know there's going to be a bulge.
We know that one of the difficulties, of course, is the unskilled
workers or those who don't have the necessary skills today because
what they may have learned 30 or 40 years ago.... When you see people
being laid off the assembly lines recently in St. Catharines, where
General Motors decided to close down, these people may have been
working for 20 or 30 years and they may not have those skills.
To divert for a second, one of the
comments made across the way here was about the 1998
budget and the use of tax-free RRSPs. You commented
quite accurately that a lot of these people
don't have them. One of the things I don't understand
is why we don't look at why the department has not
promoted the idea of using the EI entitlement for
lifelong learning. To me that would make ample sense,
particularly since the gap is getting wider, as you
say. We know that in fact the RRSP is not the option
that many can use, so I would suggest that the EI entitlement
would be a logical approach.
I'm obviously concerned that we as a society have not prepared
ourselves to meet some of the demands,
particularly with all the other complications now with
this downsizing, rightsizing—and I hate these terms.
People were not necessarily expecting to lose
their jobs. They came into a particular company
30 years ago, and suddenly this
For a lot of people, though, it's not only the
question of how much money they have at the end of the
day, but also it's about their own dignity,
their self-worth. We're talking to people who are 50
years of age who are suddenly out of a job. People are
My own mother is not at all happy
that she retired 10 years ago. She voluntarily
retired. I won't quote her age, because she'll
kill me. She still plays tennis. In fact, until about
four years ago she beat me all the time. It shows you
what shape I'm in.
Mr. John O'Reilly: That wouldn't be hard.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: The difficulty is
that these people want to be active and contribute
productively to society. So it's not always just the
dollars, although obviously it's important to have the
necessary dollars to be able to survive in the way
we all would like.
We see the volunteers and the role of
volunteer agencies in our society. Lifelong
learning is also expensive. Some of these people may
not have the dollars to be able...and I know that some
of them don't, because I see them in my office all the
time. The difficulty is that we need to respond in that way.
So my first question is about the use of
demographics and why we didn't see this coming.
The second one is about the EI entitlement. If we haven't
floated this option, then we should be doing more than
floating it. We should really look seriously at that.
The third question is the issue of dignity and self-worth.
How do you deal with a situation where people don't
have those tools and they are much more concerned about
being productive members, and dollars just aren't part
of the equation?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: On the question of the
demographics, we saw it coming. It's the bias against low
skills that we saw coming less, in terms
of the community of policymakers. It's only over the
last five, six, or seven years that we've started talking
about technological bias and the knowledge-based economy,
and the fact that the economy was more and more
discriminating towards the lower-skilled worker.
If you look at the mere demographics, in the beginning of
my presentation I showed that the older workers as a
group are not worse off than anybody else. The
problem is mostly one of low-educated older workers,
and even more so when they get laid off. This
has to do not so much with the size, the demography, of
the pool but very much more with the new context
into which low-skilled workers have to...and there
are a lot of low skills among older workers.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: If in
fact we saw it coming, then why do we have such limited
programs that can respond effectively to the issue at
hand? I read your first part, where it
said they're not worse off than others.
I'd like to look at what kind of
analysis you did in terms of what you
exactly examined to say they're similar to others.
We talk about younger workers being more
disadvantaged. Then, of course, the issue is that it's
more difficult as you get older to learn new skills,
whether they're linguistic skills or technological
skills. I learn by watching. Six or seven
years ago I didn't know how to use a computer. If you
handed me the manual, it was absolutely useless to me. So I
watched somebody and they taught me. I'm
fairly proficient now.
I still have some difficulty
with those assumptions, particularly when you
say we saw it coming.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: I'm sorry. We saw the
demography coming. We didn't see the fact that the low
skills were to be discriminated against so much by
today's economic requirements. I think I'm trying to
recast the problem you see. You are
characterizing it as a demographic issue. I'm trying
to say it's more of a skills issue.
We have problems with the low skills of older workers.
And low-skilled youth is a problem as well, as is
a low-skilled main workforce. So with the problem we're
looking at of older workers today, you
quickly have to reduce it to low-skilled older workers.
I would suggest that it's low-skilled workers all
around. The government programs were not prepared
for that. You're absolutely right, that's the
technological shift we didn't see coming.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: I apologize if I didn't see it
in your papers. Did you
actually describe what you characterize as low skills?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: In the definition I used,
we were talking usually of less than high school...or other
literacy skills. You talk about familiarization with
the computer. Some people don't have an education
level that is very high, but nevertheless they are very
literate. They can learn by emulating or they can
learn through reading. They're autodidacts.
There's a lot of that.
Among older workers right now there's a lot
of low literacy, which was not too much of an issue
several years ago, where you didn't need to be
very literate to work in the primary sector.
You had to be good with your judgment and your
hands. Today, with technology, even those sectors have
been going down. And on top of it, the technology
required to work with those sectors is going up; there's a
skill bias upward. All the occupational requirements in
terms of skills have increased rather than decreased.
I don't know if you remember that a few years ago there was
a debate on whether technology was introducing a
bias against or for technology. I think we've resolved
that. Clearly, we see it in all of our data. Most
occupations demand more now than they used to, and
that's what we were not prepared for.
That's the answer. I've forgotten the other
questions. I know there was a question about the
entitlement of EI, but I think you mentioned the
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): We're going to hit
on that later.
Ms. Glynnis French: Would you like me to reply on—
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): I want to make
sure Mr. O'Reilly gets his oar in here.
Ms. Glynnis French: On the issue of whether
or not EI entitlement
is used to deal with this issue, I think quite
clearly it is, because there's been a tremendously
great investment in active measures in training. By
the time the program is fully phased in, there will be
a $2.2 billion investment in the active measures of the
labour market training aspect of employment insurance.
So EI entitlement and retraining are very closely
interlinked. That was intentional and that was a
I'm not sure whether you were getting at the issue of
whether there's a mid-career stepping out of
the labour force in order to do retraining through EI.
Policy choices of all kinds are being considered.
That's not one that necessarily has been completely
dismissed, but of course it is extremely expensive
and it would have to be weighed against other
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you.
On the point made that measurement
is particularly difficult, some people asked about how you
define “low skill”. Some people measure it
according to how you do in school; others define
“skill” as whether or not they can beat their mother.
You can go ahead.
Mr. Serge Bertrand: I would like to address your observation
that there is a limited number of programs for older
workers. I made that comment, and I would just like to
put that into context.
We reviewed what the OECD
countries are doing and what
we're doing to address the issue of older
workers. We observed that the OECD
countries, not only Canada but the entire set,
have not tended to use active measures
to respond to the issue, especially in Europe.
In Europe they went through this problem before us, in
terms of the aging of their population. They have
tended to address the issue with a policy response
of more passive measures like income support.
In the past countries have not responded with
active measures. That's the point I was trying to
make. It was not that we didn't see it coming, but it
was looking at how the countries have responded
to the problem.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: Passive versus active.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Mr.
Mr. John O'Reilly: Thank you
very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank
you very much, presenters, for your very thoughtful and
very detailed analysis.
Most of my questions, by the way, have been answered,
but the one on which I haven't heard an answer yet is,
do your statistics take into account the trend of
companies sending their employees off into retirement
and then hiring them back under specific contracts?
This happens in places like the OPP, where the person
serves 25 or 30 years and then is retired, and then the
next thing you know, you see them back in uniform doing
specific duties, working under a personal contract.
There are no benefits paid. That happens in the
military; it happens to many drivers; it happens in
retail stores, where a person is retired, they're
collecting a pension, and they're shopping themselves
out to maybe one or two different retail stores to work
Is that taken into account in the statistical
analysis, and if not, why not? If it is, would that
not give some answer as to why the gap between when
you're retired and when you die has actually
lengthened? A lot of the people in that age group are
in fact still working. They're just double-dipping, or
working at one or two other jobs and collecting a full
pension, and I suppose dealing with the tax situation
through incorporating themselves, that type of thing. I
just wondered if that was taken into consideration, and
if the statistics reflect it anywhere. I couldn't find
it in the presentation.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: I think you're entirely
right, there's a lot of contracting out and rehiring.
There are two behaviours, and you've described them.
Companies sometimes fire workers and rehire them, or
let them go and then take them on through different
means—and there's a series of ways in which this is
being done—but there's also the situation where people
retire from one place and go to work as self-employed
at another one.
So these show in the statistics of self-employed that
I have mentioned. I can't tell you how much, but we
know that a good portion of the increase in
self-employment that we see is due to the phenomenon
you just described, part of it—again, 30%, 50%, 20%, I
In terms of the last part of your observation, this
will not increase or affect the gap, though, between
retirement and.... If they are self-employed, if they
are working either as their own account or for another
company, they would be considered still employed. Even
though they've quit their company, they're still in the
workforce; they're still showing as positive
statistics, if you want. They still show as members of
the workforce. They are employed. They're not
considered unemployed—unless they do things under the
table, but that's another story. So that phenomenon
would not be responsible for the gap that is shown in
terms of the increased period of retirement.
When we speak of retirement, we're speaking of
inactivity. Let me rephrase that: we're speaking of
non-activity in the formal economy. It could be
tennis, it could be voluntary sector; these are all
legitimate activities, but not paid work.
Mr. John O'Reilly: Okay. I just didn't know how
that entered into the statistics. If they're not
paying income tax or unemployment insurance and the
only thing they do is file a tax return at the end of
the year that shows they have other income, which they
have to pay tax on, and they have their pension, where
do they fit into your equation? That was basically my
question. I don't know how you catch them.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: They're considered paid
employed workers. They're considered part of the
workforce. They're considered employed—in this case
self-employed, but employed.
Mr. John O'Reilly: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): We know, Mr.
O'Reilly, that what you're trying to do is reassure the
country that in fact Mr. Gretzsky is not retired.
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I just have a quick question.
There was an HRDC report a year or so ago that explored the issue of
any possible bias against older workers in the manpower centres at
that time—they have a different name now. I wonder if you could
comment a little bit on that. I know you mentioned discrimination
against older workers, and I'm not wanting any hostility toward the
department, but I just want to know whether you could comment on that
and on whether anything's been done to address it. If our internal
operations can address that problem, then maybe we can extrapolate
those solutions to private industry. That is what I'm thinking.
Ms. Glynnis French: I'm not aware of the report
you're referring to, so I feel at a bit of a
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: I don't have the name, I'm
Ms. Glynnis French: I think I'd have to see
the report before responding to it.
But there's nothing inherent in the program delivery
itself that should lead to discriminatory behaviour
against older workers. In fact, I would say that the
focus now on a wider range of measures to reintegrate
workers in the workforce should allow for better
treatment and more targeted treatment of all groups,
including those who fall in the older age group
Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Yes, this is just a vague
recollection, so if I get any more particulars I can
always come back and see if you have any comment.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you.
I'd like to ask the indulgence of the committee to let
me touch on a couple of questions myself, if you don't
mind. A couple are just information items.
First, there was a reference to the fact that the
labour market agreements may not be working well with
regard to older workers. I would be curious as to the
nature of the evaluations that demonstrated that, and I
suspect the committee would be very interested in
finding that out. I would like to know how POWA was
funded, through CRF or EI—I presume CRF funds. I see
nodding, so I guess I already have my answer.
On the question of the use of EI—this is on lifelong
learning—as a way of offering entitlement for someone
pursuing lifelong learning, whether they step out of
the labour market to do that or whether they leave the
labour market and do it anyway, which would be active
measures.... The point here is that since we've
identified that it's as much a low skill problem as an
older worker problem—I think that point's been made
repeatedly—consequently the remedy is in skills
enhancement; and in fact the natural course of things,
at least in some of the cases, is the reverse. The
point was made by someone that in fact just sustaining
skill levels in some cases has been difficult.
Therefore we've identified low skills as the root
source, which shows up as a demographic but is really
related to skills as much as anything. In fact, as
people get older, their skills set diminishes rather
than holding its own, which comes as a revelation to
some, certainly to me. Then we have, I think, an
obligation to consider ways of remedying that
I would also add—and I'm open to challenge on
this—that the EI program and CPP also end up offering
the entitlement after you've lost your job.
Consequently, could we not determine the costs that
would be required to allow somebody to step out before
being forced to do so, as against the cost that's going
to be incurred when they're forced to do so because
they haven't got the skills? In other words, when they
leave the labour force, in many cases they are going to
be on EI or CPP, disability usually, in that period
we're talking about. Consequently, if you shifted that
money forward in the system so that they could keep
their skills set up, they wouldn't leave. You said a
lot of this has to do with skills sets, so therefore
we're paying for it either preventively or after the
fact. Has any analysis been done on that cost?
I'd be curious as to the province-by-province
inventory of programming. You've mentioned Job Corps
in New Brunswick; I'm familiar with that. You also
mentioned that they seem to be negotiating something
very similar to Job Corps in Cape Breton; at least,
the way it was described sounds familiar.
Ms. Glynnis French: On the issue of EI
entitlement, you're perfectly correct that the design
of EI is related to people losing their jobs and
providing entitlement for people who have lost their
jobs, with one clear exception, which is the issue with
apprentices who in fact have not lost their jobs but
are entitled to use EI during the period of training.
Somehow that was designed into the program, but other
kinds of training as a part of employment were not
included in the program.
What it would cost would really depend on the take-up.
We know that we have about 1.4 million people cycling
through EI in a year. If you take your take-up at
perhaps $100,000 a year, you can quickly come to $1
billion to $2 billion on cost. That's just back of the
envelope. But there are many other ways in which,
through the design of the program, you're going to make
it either more or less attractive for people. We
haven't done that detailed costing. We haven't been
directed to do it as a policy initiative. That and all
other kinds of issues related to EI are constantly
Mr. Serge Bertrand: Maybe I can address your first
question on LMDAs. The point that was mentioned on
LMDAs was that there was a report in the newspaper, in
La Presse in particular, that maybe there were
some difficulties in the implementation of LMDAs in
Quebec. We have not received that evaluation yet. But
I don't recall that in the newspaper there were any
specific references to older worker difficulties.
As for other provinces, as I indicated, we are in the
process of evaluating the implementation of LMDAs in
each province, and one of the issues we cover is
whether or not there are clientele groups that are not
served well. So we will have reports on that as these
evaluations come on-stream, which is expected in the
next several months.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): I think it
would helpful for the committee, given the nature of
this study, to have a province-by-province inventory of
the nature of programs, because they are different. I
was exclusively exposed to Job Corps in New
Brunswick, at the expense of anything else. Other
people, when I got here, were talking about POWA and
other things that were unfamiliar to me. Consequently,
I'm assuming it's the other way around for some. So
that we know the full menu of possibilities, I think
that would be a helpful piece of information.
Ms. Glynnis French: Mr. Chair, I think we should
come back to you with that inventory. We're not
prepared with it at the moment.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): That's
Ms. Glynnis French: So that is something that
could be put on the agenda down the way.
If I could also intervene for one moment from a
personal basis, I have to leave the committee within
the next five minutes because I'm due to be somewhere
with the minister in fifteen minutes, if that's
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): I understood
that we were trying to accommodate your desire to be as
illuminating as possible.
Mr. Wilfert has asked for the floor.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: Very quickly, on
the entitlement issue, it reminded me of the
commercial, “You can pay me now or you can pay me
later”. You may not remember it, talking of older
The fact is that if we have this EI account—and
that's what I was trying to get at—why would we not
put the money into the social costs for people who lose
their jobs and then have to go out and do these things?
It's far more costly to Canadian society than if you
back it up and allow them to either step out or have
that window. That's what part of the money is there
for, surely. I would think that if we haven't costed
it, that's something we should be looking at. I think
it's something we should get the department to move on.
Otherwise, it is going to be like that commercial;
it's going to cost us more down the road.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: I think the idea is
starting to be—if I may, Mr. Chair—
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Yes.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: —a bit powerful. We have
to be careful here because the logic is perfect:
prevention is better than remedial for everyone. But
the cost could be unaffordable. We know of someone who
becomes unemployed; we don't know of someone who will
become unemployed. We may attach a risk of
unemployment on someone on the basis of skills and so
on, but we may be totally wrong.
Attitudes count for a
lot, and who knows? If the take-up is
too high, there are people there
who would never have been unemployed.
So the cost evaluation may show something you won't like to see. But
you're right, we should do it.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: We have to see it in order
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Exactly. But the logic
doesn't go the full extent to the fact that this
would, no doubt, be less expensive. I would challenge
that. I think it could be seriously more expensive.
The other thing is that the EI system was not created
with that intention. It may evolve, but that was
certainly not the purpose initially. This is the type
of concept that is being looked at, though, as Glynnis
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Being a
Canadian, I have to say it's remarkable how much EI
does that it was never intended to do.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: My question to whoever
remains of our witnesses here is on immobility. Is
that a major contributor to long-term joblessness among
older workers, not being willing to move or being
unable to move? You get settled and rooted; you have
grandkids there, and so on. Is that a major issue?
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Yes. I mentioned that as
one of the key barriers. In a big
country like Canada, it's particularly problematic.
We are mobile by European standards, nevertheless
it's almost financially impossible for many people, and
that's a real barrier.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: Can anything be done to
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: It's the old debate of
bringing jobs to the people or bringing the people to
the jobs. There have been periods in Canadian history
when we've favoured economic development very highly.
We put all of the dollars there, with poor results in
some areas. Then we shift to the supply side, on the
people and the individuals, and again, this may not be
a satisfactory answer because of this problem of
mobility. There are people who simply can't move.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: But I suppose it's more of
an issue with older people.
Mr. Jean-Pierre Voyer: Absolutely. My chart shows
that mobility goes down as age increases, for all the
reasons you know—family, mortgage being paid, houses,
community entrenchment, and things like that.
Mr. Maurice Vellacott: Thank you.
The Acting Chairman (Mr. Andy Scott): Thank you very
I guess we've exhausted our questions for now. I
suspect we'll have more in the future.
I want to thank, in her absence, Ms. French and the
two who have been able to stay for what I think is a
very informative session. This is a very important
issue across the country and one that is going to seize
this committee's agenda in the weeks ahead.
Thank you all.
The meeting is adjourned.