Extending Employment beyond Retirement Age: The Case of Health Care Managers in Quebec

By Saba, Tania; Guerin, Gilles | Public Personnel Management, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Extending Employment beyond Retirement Age: The Case of Health Care Managers in Quebec


Saba, Tania, Guerin, Gilles, Public Personnel Management


Baby boomers in public agencies are getting ready to retire and there are concerns about retaining the existing workforce apart from recruiting younger managers. Recent studies of workplace patterns of older workers have shown that the workforce of older workers should no longer be seen as a unidirectional journey to retirement. Older workers may value bridge employment or even prefer to extend their working lives. The motives for deciding to leave the workplace permanently can be related to unmet expectations, the desire for change, and the need to enjoy a new phase of life. Based on a survey conducted on 402 older managers working in health care institutions in Quebec, this study sheds light on the new alternatives to traditional early retirement that organizations will have to take into account while considering the preferences and intentions of employees who are approaching retirement.

Because of the decline in fertility rates and the increase in life expectancy, in most developed countries there will, in the next few years, be a marked increase in the proportion of the workforce that is over 45 years of age. During the past 10 years, the population aged 45 to 64 in Canada increased by 35.8 percent to almost 7.3 million. This increase was fuelled mainly by the entry into this group of the oldest baby-boomers born between 1946 and 1965. People aged 45 to 64 alone accounted for virtually one-quarter of Canada's total population of just over 30 million in 2001 compared with only 20 percent in 1991. In 2011, these individuals are expected to represent almost one-third of the nation's total population. (1) While the trend in recent years has been to downsize and cut costs by offering massive early retirement to aging employees, this has unfortunately denied organizations the expertise of senior employees, and has resulted in an over-representation of employees who are in their late forties. However, like the generation that preceded them, this generation is getting ready to retire, pushed by major organizational upheaval, work overload and especially a culture of early departure which, in recent years, has taken root in workplaces as a result of numerous early retirement programs. Replacements are therefore getting scarce and focus is being put on a workforce largely found in today's organizations, namely the cohorts of baby boomers whose age hovers around 50.

In Quebec, the health sector has been hard hit by this reality. The massive forced retirement of hundreds of nurses has caused a labor shortage in this job category. The entry of younger nurses has not compensated for the many retirements and the health sector is still grappling with recruitment crises. Managers working within health care institutions are currently experiencing a similar situation. Among the 3,450 managers working in 141 institutions in the Montreal area, approximately 21 percent (704) will be eligible for retirement in the next three years. This percentage will increase to 50 percent in the next five years. The healthcare network of the Greater Montreal area will undoubtedly be faced with not only a labor shortage but also the need to provide training to young recruits in record time in order to prepare them to take over. Human resources planning departments have no other choice but to accept the conclusions of the many studies that have tried to identify the problems associated with workforce aging and established that the effectiveness of organizations will undoubtedly depend on finding new effective ways to retain and manage employees who are 50 years and older. (2) With the increasing number of mature employees in organizations and on the labor market, organizations will have to implement human resource practices that will make older employees' jobs more challenging, encouraging them to extend their working life and empowering them to contribute to the organization's success. (3)

The main focus of this article is to point to new ways to retain an older workforce by highlighting some of the benefits of implementing adequate human resource practices that can encourage older workers to extend their employment.

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Extending Employment beyond Retirement Age: The Case of Health Care Managers in Quebec
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