Raising the retirement age and universal daycare could be among the drastic steps governments will have to take to deal with an aging workforce, a Dalhouse University professor claims.
Nova Scotia could also face a workforce shortage crisis in less than seven years, according to a population report by Dal’s Jim McNiven, who spoke Thursday to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, which released the 15-page report.
“You’re going to find that from all the businesses. They’re going to start finding that they can’t find the people that they need. And that can be anything from the janitor up to the CEO,” McNiven said.
He stated it’s the result of decades of birth rates meeting only two of every three needed replacements. McNiven said women he polled were worried it would sacrifice their careers to take multiple years off to raise children.
To reverse the tide he said universal daycare starting at the age of two might be necessary.
“If you don’t do something like that you’ve got to assume our birth rates will remain low or go even lower,” he said. “Which do you want? It’s a choice.”
As for avoiding a massive economic stall, McNiven said there are three options – increasing immigration, people staying in the workforce longer and increasing productivity.
He said none of those strategies on their own can fill the gap. As an example, he said having everyone work into their 70s would not fix the problem.
“We’ve only got three directions we can go,” he said. “The only sensible thing is a mix.”
In particular he stressed the need to move quickly. He said the slide has already begun but it’s being masked by the recession, adding the low unemployment rate and businesses still hiring are out of whack with normal recession cycles.
“Usually you’ve got lineups of people looking for any job they can find. I don’t see that this time,” he said.