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Can older workers be retrained? Canadian evidence from worker-firm linked data

Can older workers be retrained? Canadian evidence from worker-firm linked data

Tony Fang, Morley Gunderson et Byron Lee

Volume : 76-3 (2021)


Our empirical analysis is based on Statistics Canada’s worker-firm matched data set, the 2003 Workplace and Employee Survey (WES). The sample size is substantial: about 4,000 workers over the age of 50 and 12,000 between the ages of 25 and 49. Training was a focus of the survey, which offers a wealth of worker-related and firm-related training variables.

We found that the mean probability of receiving training was 9.3 percentage points higher for younger workers than for older ones. Almost half of the gap is explained by older workers having fewer training-associated characteristics (personal, employment, workplace, human resource practices and occupation/industry/region), and slightly more than half by them having a lower propensity to receive training, this being the gap that remained after we controlled for differences in training-associated characteristics. Their lower propensity to receive training likely reflects the higher opportunity cost of lost wages during the time spent in training, possible higher psychological costs and lower expected benefits due to their shorter remaining work-life and lower productivity gains from training, as discussed in the literature.

The lower propensity of older workers to receive training tended to prevail across 54 different training measures, with notable exceptions discussed in detail. We found that older workers can be trained, but their training should be redesigned in several ways: by making instruction slower and self-paced; by assigning hands-on practical exercises; by providing modular training components to be taken in stages; by familiarizing the trainees with new equipment; and by minimizing required reading and amount of material covered. The concept of “one-size-fits- all” does not apply to the design and implementation of training programs for older workers.

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