Toronto Star

Health care, skilled trades face ‘mass exodus’ of retiring workers after COVID

Orignally published on 2022-01-19 11:00:00 by www.thestar.com

While the COVID-19 pandemic meant some workers put off retirement plans, they’re not sticking around forever.

More than 20 per cent of Canadian employees are eligible to retire by 2026, roughly double the amount in the previous five years, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada.

“Organizations (are) at risk for a mass exodus,” said the report, “Languishing and the Great Attrition.”

In some industries, such as health care and construction, the situation is particularly dire, said the report’s author, Lauren Florko.

“In health care, it’s a pretty volatile environment right now,” said Florko. Some health-care workers have come out of retirement to help out during the pandemic. Others are sticking around longer, rather than retiring. But once the pandemic comes to an end, many will likely go for good, she said.

Just 0.9 per cent of health-care workers retired in 2020, the most recent year for which retirement numbers were available. From 2021 through 2026, another 21.3 per cent are eligible to call it quits, Florko noted.

“A lot of people are probably postponing due to the need that’s there right now. But you’re getting massive burnout and overworking. So we’re really seeing that potential mass exodus,” said Florko.

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health said the provincial government has added 6,700 health-care workers and staff to the system, and plans to add another 6,000 before the end of March.

“The Ministry of Health is working with sector partners to implement a comprehensive strategy focused on recruiting and retaining health-care professionals. This strategy addresses key professions of need across the health system, while tackling short, medium and long-term issues to ensure a robust health workforce for the people of Ontario, now and into the future,” said spokesperson W.D. Lighthall.

The government is also investing $35 million in an attempt to increase the number of people enrolling in nursing school, said Lighthall.

In the construction and manufacturing industries, the crisis is already here, say industry associations.

“This is real. There is no slack in the system,” said Dennis Darby, president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. “There were a lot of people who didn’t want to leave their employers in the lurch during the pandemic, and I think we’ll see a lot of them retire once we’re through COVID.”

Even before the mass exodus, 50,000 manufacturing jobs in Ontario and Quebec were going unfilled, said Darby, putting the industry’s international competitiveness at risk.

Just under 10 per cent of people in the skilled trades are eligible to retire by the end of 2026, Florko said.

That figure comes at a time when the construction industry is already struggling to find enough bricklayers, concrete pourers and other skilled tradespeople, said Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario.

“We’re kind of in a perfect storm here,” said Lyall, adding that the shortage of workers is keeping some residential projects from completion.

That, Lyall argued, will make the housing supply even tighter than it already is and will push real estate prices higher.

Lyall said everyone from high school guidance counsellors to officials shaping immigration policy and education funding need to give the skilled trades a fairer shake. So, too, do young people looking to enter the workforce, who might not have considered the upsides, said Lyall.

“You make higher than average wages, have higher than average job satisfaction, and have a lot of independence and leverage. You don’t have to take any crap from anyone, because if you’re not being treated right, there’s going to be another job site just across the street,” said Lyall.

Orignally published on 2022-01-19 11:00:00 by www.thestar.com

Back to top button