The labour force participation rate is driven in large part by demographics. Both people under the age of 25 (predominantly students) and people over the age of 55 (people beginning to retire) are less likely to be employed or looking for work compared to “prime age” workers – people aged 25 through 54. Thus, differences between Nova Scotia and Canada’s demographic makeup – specifically the age composition of the population – can account for much of, but not all, of the difference in their respective participation rates.
age canada ns 15-19 49 48.3 20-24 76.1 76.1 25-29 85.7 84.4 30-34 86.9 86.2 35-39 87 88.3 40-45 88 87.9 45-49 87.5 84.8 50-54 84.3 81.9 55-59 75.4 71.3 60-64 54.8 51.2
The Nova Scotia population is generally older than the Canadian average. A larger portion of the Nova Scotia labour force population is age 50 or older (36 per cent) compared to Canada (32 per cent), an age group which tends to have lower participation rates. Conversely, a smaller portion of the province’s labour force population is age 25-49 – 46 per cent vs the 50 per cent Canadian average.
This means that even if individual Nova Scotians have the same likelihood of labour force participation as the average Canadian at a given age, Nova Scotia would still have a lower overall participation rate as a result of its population being older on average.
age canada ns 15-19 8.40% 8.30% 20-24 10.00% 9.60% 25-29 10.20% 9.50% 30-34 10.30% 8.90% 35-39 9.90% 8.80% 40-45 9.70% 9.30% 45-49 9.80% 9.60% 50-54 11.20% 12.50% 55-59 10.90% 12.30% 60-64 9.50% 11.20%
Age differences can be controlled for by looking at the participation rate for comparable 5-year age groups in Nova Scotia and Canada. While it is still generally the case that for each of the 5-year age groups, Nova Scotia’s participation rate tends to be lower than the Canadian average, the gap is much smaller among people age 15 to 45. Among 20-24 year olds there is no gap at all and among 35-39 year olds, the Nova Scotian participation rate is higher than among Canadians of the same age. However, among 45-64 year olds, the participation rate gap is even larger.
age gap 15-19 -0.7 20-24 0 25-29 -1.3 30-34 -0.7 35-39 1.3 40-45 -0.1 45-49 -2.7 50-54 -2.4 55-59 -4.1 60-64 -3.6
Looking forward, the Canadian participation rate is likely to start falling as our national population ages, bringing Nova Scotia more in line with the national trend.
Changes to the indicator, baseline, or target:
- The indicator was changed to measure the participation rate of the population age 15-64, rather than 15 and older. Because this is a comparison against the national average, the differences in the age structure of Nova Scotia’s population (ie: a higher share who are older than 65) would require participation rates for younger cohorts that are in excess of the national average. This is not considered to be the intent of the goal.
- Contextual numbers were removed from the statement of the goal. The target was assumed to be the closing of the gap between the participation rate in Nova Scotia and Canada, not for Nova Scotia to reach the Canadian rate of 66.4 per cent quoted for context in the Now or Never report. This was done to keep the goal consistent in case of future historical revisions to the source data.