Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All is the theme of this year’s International Day of Older Persons commemorated on October 1. Since 2011 Canada has also marked this date as National Seniors Day, a day for Canadians to pay tribute to “the seniors who have helped build our country and continue to make valuable contributions to Canadian communities, workplaces and society.”
“On behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress’ 3.3 million members, I would like to recognize both National Seniors Day and the International Day of Older Persons and extend our gratitude to the countless seniors across the country who have contributed in countless ways to our communities and our country,” says Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
Despite this deserved celebration, the sad fact is that many of our seniors are struggling and too many of today’s seniors live in poverty. Too many older workers are realizing their retirement plans have come up short because the investment returns they were promised never materialized or they simply could not save enough on their own.
Old-age poverty is increasing in Canada; the overall senior poverty rate jumped from 4.8% in 2006 to 6.8% in 2011 and is far higher among single seniors, new immigrants, and Aboriginal Canadians. Too many of today’s seniors are not doing as well as the government would have us think and too many of tomorrow’s seniors will face living their final years in poverty.
Most Canadians cannot save enough to ensure a decent retirement income. More than 60% of workers have no workplace pension at all, while existing workplace pensions are under attack.
The Harper government recently stated that it wants to introduce legislation that allows employers to convert defined-benefit plans to target-based pension plans which would put all the risk on workers.
RRSPs have been exposed as inadequate for the vast majority of working people.
The government’s proposed Pooled Registered Pension Plans, a new form of group RRSP, will not work, and extending the OAS eligibility age from 65 to 67 will make things worse, not better.
If nothing changes, the number of seniors living in poverty and financial insecurity will increase significantly.
“The best way to show seniors the respect they deserve would be to ensure that not one of them is faced with having to work until the day they die or living their final years in poverty,” says Yussuff. “It’s only fair that after a lifetime of work and giving to their communities, seniors know they will have enough to live the rest of their lives in dignity.”
The CLC has a plan to expand the Canada Pension Plan so it covers basic needs for tomorrow’s seniors and improves the Guaranteed Income Supplement to lift today’s seniors out of poverty. The CLC proposes to phase in a doubling of Canada Pension Plan benefits on a pre-funded basis. Our proposal would increase the average benefit each year, and would result in benefits replacing up to 50% of Canada’s average wage when fully implemented.
The CLC launched this campaign five years ago and has built a coalition of eight provincial governments who want to expand the CPP.
Expanding the CPP today will increase the retirement income and purchasing power of future generations of retirees.
Doubling CPP benefits will reduce retirees’ dependence on government transfer and services, like OAS/GIS, while improving retirement security for all.