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Top Charts 21-06: When do people retire, and how has this changed over time?


What’s the average age of retirement in Canada, and how has it changed over time?


In 2018, the average retirement age in Canada was 64.4 in the private sector and 61.7 in the public sector (with some variation between males and females). Over the last 20 or so years, the average retirement age in Canada has been increasing. In the preceding 20 years or so, the average retirement age had been decreasing. The result of this is that the average retirement age today is not too different to that 40 years ago.

The following chart shows how the average retirement age in Canada has progressed from 1981 to 2018, split between the public and private sectors and by sex.

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0060-01 Retirement age by class of worker, annual

Key takeaways

  • Over the last 20 years, the average retirement age in Canada has increased by around 3 years.
  • It is well documented that life expectancy has been increasing over this period, Canadian period life expectancy at age 65 having increased by around 3 years for men and 2 years for women.
  • We note that the data is not yet available to determine whether the average time spent in retirement has actually remained stable – most of the cohorts in question are still alive. However, the increasing retirement age has at least partly offset increases in the time spent in retirement due to longevity improvements.

The key questions are:

  • Will this trend continue?
  • Will the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on employees to retire earlier? Or work longer?
  • Will those retiring today actually spend longer in retirement than those retiring 20 years ago?
  • What impact will this trend have on pension plan liabilities?

What do you think?

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