Age Distribution in the Workforce
Nova Scotia's labour statistics 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 declined for all major age groups except for older workers (those aged 55 years and over). The share of older workers in the workforce has increased and has now surpassed the proportion of youth (15 to 24 years).
Older workers (55 years and over) currently account for 21% of the total workforce, the highest proportion for this group on record (data available from 1976 to 2014). Youth (15 to 24 years) account for 15%, the lowest share for this age group on record. The prime working-age group (25 to 54 years) accounts for 64% of the total workforce. The share of the prime working-age group has steadily declined since it peaked at 75% in 1998. The graph below shows that the number of older adults (ages 55 years and over) in the labour force has increased by 69% since 2004 while it has decreased by 8% 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. Higher rates of educational enrollment are contributing to the lower participation rates for youth (ages 15 to 24 years). 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, but higher than those aged 55 to 64 years. The gap between participation rates for youth and older adults (ages 55 to 64 years) has been narrowing in the last 10 years as a result of the changing demographics in Nova Scotia and delayed retirements. The graph above shows that participation rates for youth (ages 15 to 24 years) and middle aged adults (ages 25 to 54 years) have either decreased or remained steady in the last ten years while they have increased significantly for older workers (ages 55 to 64 years).
The participation rate in Nova Scotia was the second lowest of the ten Canadian provinces in 2014. Participation rates decreased in all provinces in 2014 compared to 2013. Nova Scotia’s participation rate fell by 0.9 percentage points from 2013, the highest decline across all provinces. The labour force participation rate in the province has been declining since 2009 with the exception of 2012 where it reached a high of 64%. The participation rate in 2012 was still noticeably below the national average of roughly 67% during the same period. The lower participation rate reflects a number of factors, including an older population who tend to have lower levels of labour force participation.