Mr. P. B. Rynard (Simcoe North):
Mr. Speaker, on March 1 I asked a question of the Minister of Labour (Mr. O'Connell). Part of the preamble to my question as it is reported at page 3713 of Hansard reads:
The International Labour Organization meeting in Geneva has expressed very deep concern at the rapidly increasing, aging labour force which will put a severe strain on resources, social security and pension systems, and have recommended that older workers should be free to choose when to retire, depending on their health and capabilities.
I wanted to know if the Department of Labour had made any study in this regard and if they sent anybody as a labour representative to Geneva to learn what the reports were and to bring them back to this House. The minister, in his reply to me, indicated that an interdepartmental committee had been established two years ago to examine pensions both in the public and the private sector, but I believe that it was established last December.
I would like to ask a question of the minister and I do not want it answered by a long tirade of paper-filling words. I would like to know if the minister was aware of this labour organization meeting and of their great concern over retirement at age 65. There are two reasons why I want an answer, and I want only direct answers. If the minister or his parliamentary secretary cannot answer my questions tonight, then let him answer them tomorrow in the House. I want answers to these questions as to what they propose to do, because I feel that this is one of the most serious problems facing the future of the Canadian people.
I wonder if the minister knows what happens to retired people within a few years after they have retired. The individual either dies, deteriorates, or ends up in an institution. There is the odd one who escapes this fate. This is the story of what is happening to the average Canadian after retirement.
I would also like to ask the minister why, if this individual is physically or mentally fit, he or she is not allowed to go beyond the age of 65 in their work? This individual not only contributes to the economy but is happy and contented with himself. He has an incentive to get up every day because he is doing something which he feels is useful. The individual usually remains stimulated, bright, alert and happy.
In cases where the job becomes too heavy for the individual who reaches age 65, that individual should have the option to be transferred within that organization or factory to a job which is easier, but in the line of work which he has previously known.
March 13, 1979
People who have skills are needed in this country, simply because we do not have enough labour to meet the demand. Approximately three out of every four skilled workers in Canada were born outside this country. I would also like to bring to the minister's attention the fact that we are an aging population. In 1900 less than 5 per cent of the population was 65 years of age. Today it is almost 10 per cent, double the figure of 1900, and by the year 2000 it will be 12 per cent of the population which will be over 65 years of age. On the present scale, by the turn of the century there will be three workers for every retired person. Such a situation could cause a complete breakdown of our social security scales and pensions. Even the parliamentary secretary may not receive his pension.
Those who are fit and able should be allowed to work beyond age 65 into their seventies and even beyond that. They should also be given a preference in any other position that is open which may mean easier work, if they have the skills to perform that work. The United States has been wise enough to raise the retirement age to 70 years for the worker, and the white collar gentleman or professional in that country may work until he wishes to quit or is forced to quit through physical or mental illness.
The lifting of the retirement age is a must. The arbitrary age retirement cuts off many retired people at a time when the person being retired is at his most productive age. When was this nonsense of retirement at age 65 brought in? It was brought in in 1890 by Bismarck. It was all right then because Bismarck was smart enough to know the average age at death at that time was 42 years of age. The situation has changed today. Statistics show that the respective ages are 74 for men and 80 for women.
This is a situation we have to look at, and the minister must take it seriously. I want answers. I do not want a lot of paper garbage. The United States has already made this move. Canada needs something done right away if we are to save our pension scheme.
Subtopic: LABOUR CONDITIONS-ILO RECOMMENDATION THAT OLDER WORKERS SHOULD CHOOSE AGE OF RETIREMENT