Statistics Canada has released a report, “Labour Force Projections for Canada, 2006-2031,” which finds that as babyboomers begin to retire, there will be a major decline in the workforce participation rate.

While sunny-eyed optimists point to the part of the study that says the number of workers will continue to increase over the next few decades, there is cause for concern for those who take a longer-term view. The study outlines four possible scenarios, three of which see an increase in the absolute numbers in the labour force between now and 2031. But Stats Can warns that after 2031, there will be an “inevitable decline in the overall labour force participation rate.” This decline will occur “in all provinces.”

The consequences are not entirely predictable, but if Europe is any guide, the declining ratio of workers to pensioners could affect pension rates, retirement ages and tax levels.

Currently, there are four workers aged 15 and over for every retired person, but by 2031, the ratio is predicted to decline to 2:1. That means while presently, it takes four workers to cover government programs for the elderly, within 25 years, that burden will be shared by just two workers.

As has observed, with fewer people sharing the economic burden of pensions and healthcare, there may be pressure on families or the healthcare system in the area of “ethical decisions” on issues such as euthanasia and suitable old age care.

As per usual in such reports, the decline in population and the aging of the workforce – those who do work will on average be older as the number of young workers plateaus – makes no links to abortion, contraception and delayed child-rearing. The study also makes no policy prescriptions, but outlines the dangers of the current birth dearth and its possible long-term effects on the labour supply.

But one of the authors of the study, Laurent Martel, told that one solution to the declining number of workers is increased productivity.

Martel was echoing the words of Bank of Canada president David Dodge, who said recent economic gains are the result of increased population and female workforce participation. He warns, however, that this trend is unsustainable and employees should be encouraged to work longer, which is possible because most labour has become “less physical” and “people are remaining healthier later in life.”

Neither Martel nor Dodge focused on productivity gains, rather than population gains. They therefore ensured that this country’s economic elite will keep their heads in the sand when it comes to the impending economic catrastrophe that depopulation could herald for Canada.