Mark Janson | CUPE Research

Canada’s impending retirement security crisis for baby boomers is well-documented. Yet buried in these studies is a more troubling message: the very real retirement income challenges today’s boomers are facing will be felt even harder by future generations. Today’s young workers are facing bleak prospects of being able to retire with security and dignity.

Thankfully, young workers’ future hardship is preventable, but we need to make some major changes today. Here are three areas where young workers can be active in achieving retirement security.

1 - Reverse the cuts to Old Age Security

In 2012, Harper unilaterally increased the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 65 to 67. This will strip more than 13,000 (of today’s) dollars from the retirement income of today’s young worker. Harper didn’t 
campaign on this change and experts said it was unnecessary. Today’s young and tomorrow’s vulnerable will bear the burden of these cuts. The NDP has promised to reverse these cuts if they are elected to office.

2 - Expand the Canada Pension Plan

The CPP has many positive elements: it’s mandatory, employers match employee contributions, virtually all workers participate, and the benefits it delivers are secure and keep pace with the increasing cost of living. The plan’s only flaw is that it is too small: it now pays, on average, just over 600 dollars per month for new retirees. The labour movement has a fully-costed plan to double CPP benefits with a modest, phased-in increase in contributions. The public, the provinces, stakeholder groups and pension experts agree on the need for CPP expansion, but Harper has refused or only offered distractions. The NDP is committed to expanding CPP if they form government.

3 - Defend fair workplace pension plans

Across the country, employers are attacking good workplace pension plans. The result of some of these attacks have been “two-tier” agreements that preserve a good pension only for active workers, while new hires (most often young workers) are placed into a much worse pension plan. Young workers also often face barriers to participation in workplace plans: part-time workers (again, most often young workers) can be barred from membership. Young members should stand with their locals against pension concessions, but should also push to expand access to those pension plans, while strongly resisting any “two-tier” agreements.

A middle class life must include a decent and secure income in retirement. Powerful ideological forces in Canada are trying to convince us that this simple demand is too costly and not sustainable for future generations. Today’s young workers need to stand up and demand the retirement security we all deserve.