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PAINFUL TRUTH: Time for the revenge of Gen-X and the Millennials?

Baby Boomers are retiring, someone gets the jobs
Things have changed since this aerial photo of Fort Langley was taken in the 1950s. (Langley Centennial Museum collection)

Demographics is one of those huge forces over which we have no control, but which directs a huge swathe of our life.

For example, I’m a member of Generation X, which means as I grew up, I was told I was a useless, lazy slacker who would never amount to anything. This assessment usually came from Baby Boom generation folks who had been told growing up that they were a bunch of useless, lazy hippies who would never amount to anything.

Generational stereotypes aren’t worth much, in other words.

Despite the fact that the clichés aren’t a reliable map of reality, demographics can have a profound effect on our lives.

Take, for example, the long-term impacts we’re seeing from the Great Retirement.

Last September, Statistics Canada released data showing a huge jump in the rate of retirement across the country. A total of 303,000 Canadians had retired between August 2021 and August 2022. That was up from 233,000 a year earlier.

Now, some of that was undoubtedly attributable to pandemic burnout. If you were anywhere near retirement age, and you worked as a nurse, teacher, or other high-pressure job during the last three years, you’d be eager to put your feet up, too.

But it’s also simply because the Baby Boom generation is now aged between 60 and 75. They’re in prime retirement age. Add in the fact that many of them reaped a huge financial windfall from simply buying property in the 1970s through the1990s, and if they worked steadily through their lifetimes, they’re financially set.

Generations that followed the Baby Boomers didn’t do as well, money-wise. But now, maybe, it’s time for them to get their piece of the pie.

The thing is, there are just fewer Gen X members and Millennials than there are Boomers. After the baby boom, families got smaller. That means there are fewer workers left to take over jobs as Boomers retire. Sure, immigration can make up part of that shortfall, but not all of it.

Hence, one of the major reasons we’ve seen so much talk about labour shortages in every sector, from health care to truck driving.

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And do you know what happens when there’s a shortage of workers? When, instead of many workers competing for few jobs, you get many jobs competing for scarce workers?

Yep, wages go up.

After decades in which the cost of living, especially the cost of housing, has outpaced any increase in wages, things might start to reverse.

The younger generations – which includes Gen Xers who are up to their mid-50s, and Millennials who are in their early 40s, remember – are finally poised to actually start getting ahead.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course. We could have a nasty recession soon. The banking crisis, or high interest rates, or something else could undermine things.

But demographics is a big influence. All other things being equal, this generational shift will last a long time.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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