Age Distribution in the Workforce
Nova Scotia's labour statistics continue to reflect the demographic shift attributed to the aging baby boomer population. In the last decade, the number of people in Nova Scotia’s workforce has, on average, been stable as a result of an increase in the proportion of older workers (those age 55 years and older) in the workforce. In contrast there has been declines for both the youth and adult workforce populations. The share of older workers in the workforce has been greater than the proportion of youth (15 to 24 years) since 2009.
From 1999 to 2019 the share of older workers in the labour force grew by 190.3%. The growth in this workforce was concentrated in the years 2001 to 2012 which coincides with the baby boomer population entering the older worker demographic. Since 2016, older workers (55 years and over) have accounted for 23% of the total workforce, the highest proportion for this category on record (data available from 1976 to 2018). The share of individuals not in the labour force also grew for the older worker population by 24.6% from 2009 to 2019. The greatest growth in this worker category not in the labour force grew the most from 2013 to 2015, with an average annual growth of 3.7%. The growth in both those in the labour force and those not in the labour force for the older workers demonstrates that Nova Scotia is experiencing the effect of an aging population.
Youth (15 to 24 years) account for 15%, although up slightly from 2016 and 2017, this proportion is the second lowest share on record for this age group.
The prime working-age group (25 to 54 years) accounts for 62% of the total workforce. The share of the prime working-age group has steadily declined since it peaked at 75% in 1997. The graph below shows that the number of older adults (ages 55 years and over) in the labour force has increased by 34.6% since 2009 while it has decreased by 6% for those below 55 years of age.
The labour force participation rate gives an indication of the willingness of those of working age to participate in the labour market. In addition to economic conditions, some factors that can affect participation rates include: the age distribution of the population; the industrial make-up of the province; and the percentage of the population engaged in educational activities. While higher rates of educational enrollment have contributed to lower participation rates for youth (ages 15 to 24 years) the impact of declining fertility rates are also experienced amongst youth participation which increased by four percentage points from 2018 to 2019. Additionally, retirees are considered non-participants, which would contribute to the lower participation rates of the higher age groups.
In the past, youth have had lower participation rates than those aged 25 to 54 (core working age), but higher than those aged 55 years and over. The gap between participation rates for youth and older adults (ages 55 years and over) has grown slightly over the last 10 years as a result of the changing demographics in Nova Scotia, however it has been mitigated by delayed retirements. The graph above shows that participation rates for core-aged adults (ages 25 to 54 years) remained steady for the last ten years while it has increased for youth (ages 15 to 24 years) and older workers (ages 55 years and over) who are expected to participate less in comparison to the core-aged adults.
The participation rate in Nova Scotia was the third lowest of the ten Canadian provinces in 2019. Participation rates increased in 6 out of 10 provinces in 2019 compared to 2018. Nova Scotia’s participation rate grew by 0.5 percentage points from 2018, the third highest growth across all provinces. The labour force participation rate in the province has been declining since 2011, with the exception of 2012 where it reached a high of 64.4%. The lower participation rate reflects a number of factors, including an older population who tend to have lower levels of labour force participation.