Age Diversity and Job Market Realities: The Concept of the ‘Curse of 35’

By 35 most employees have solidified their careers and are considering marriage, kids, or homeownership. Though recently, stories of international labour markets have brought an emerging trend to light. The ‘Curse of 35’ is a popular phrase taking over social media as workers emphasize the risk they face of becoming less attractive to employers over time.  

This stems from higher cost requirements of the employees, and more personal responsibilities leaving employees less inclined to work overtime. As Canadian employers, it’s crucial to keep an eye on these trends as a reassurance to your team. 

Decoding the ‘Curse of 35’

What exactly is the ‘Curse of 35’? The ‘Curse of 35’ has taken off recently. It represents a form of perceived age discrimination leading to job insecurity for middle-aged workers. This concept has far-reaching social and economic implications, influencing aspects like marriage rates, family planning, stress and financial stability.

Age Diversity: A Must-Have for Canadian Employers

  1. The Power of Age Diversity: A workforce with a diverse age range brings various experiences and perspectives, fostering increased innovation and problem-solving capabilities.
  2. Fair Pay and Equal Opportunities Regardless of Age: Age shouldn’t influence compensation or career progression.
  3. Building an Age-Inclusive Culture: An environment that values employees for their skills and contributions, regardless of age, reduces biases and ensures everyone feels valued.
  4. Balancing Work and Life: Overemphasis on overtime work can lead to burnout and high attrition rates. It’s critical to balance work and personal life for employee satisfaction and productivity.
  5. Learning Never Stops: Continuous Skill Development: Regular training and skill development programs ensure all employees stay updated with the latest industry trends and technologies. Even an old dog can learn new tricks.
Drawn images of a lineup of employees featuring age diversity.

Canadian Workforce

Statistic: Total number of employed persons in Canada in 2022, by age group (in 1,000s) | Statista

The Canadian workforce is undergoing significant changes due to demographic shifts and societal trends. In terms of age distribution, as of 2022, there were around 1.7 million persons between the ages of 20 and 24 years old and approximately 2.3 million people between the ages of 30 and 34 years old employed in Canada​​. The aging workforce in Canada is a crucial issue, with people exiting the workforce in record numbers and an insufficient number of talented replacements to fill their positions​​.

The retirement age in Canada has not followed the global trend of increasing to 67, and this, coupled with a declining birth rate, could lead to more workers leaving the workforce than entering it in the coming years, potentially affecting the economy and standard of living​​. With the longevity revolution brought about by advancements in medicine and technology, people are living longer and healthier lives, further increasing the proportion of older workers in the workforce​​.

Despite these challenges, the conversation around aging workers and the need to upscale the workforce remains largely ignored in the political sphere​​. A shift in workplace culture is needed, including proactive investment in skills retraining and balancing technological advancement with human capital investment​​.

The ‘Curse of 35’ phenomenon may not be directly applicable to Canada, but it does highlight the importance of age diversity and the potential for age discrimination to affect job security and personal life decisions. Canadian employers can learn from this to ensure age inclusivity in the workplace and promote a balance between work and personal life for employees of all ages.

Promoting Continuous Learning and Skill Development in the Workplace

One effective strategy for managing an aging workforce is to invest in continuous learning and skill development programs. As industries continue to evolve due to technological advancements and market shifts, employees must constantly update their skills to remain effective and competitive.

This is particularly relevant for older employees who may not have grown up in the digital age and could benefit from additional training in new technologies and tools.

Employers can offer a variety of learning opportunities, such as on-the-job training, online courses, workshops, and seminars, that can help employees enhance their existing skills and acquire new ones.

By fostering a culture of learning, organizations can not only increase the productivity and engagement of their employees but also demonstrate a commitment to their personal and professional growth.

Moreover, reskilling and upskilling initiatives can help employers leverage the wealth of experience and knowledge that older workers possess while ensuring they are equipped to contribute to their full potential in the modern workplace. This can be a win-win situation, where businesses retain valuable institutional knowledge while employees feel valued and empowered.

Government policies can play a role in promoting lifelong learning and skill development. Regulations could be adjusted to provide incentives for businesses to invest in employee training and public programs could be established to support skills training for older workers.

This approach aligns with the idea of thinking about age in terms of capability rather than chronology, and it emphasizes the importance of adapting to the changing needs and realities of the modern workforce.

It also supports the notion that the solution to the challenges of an aging workforce lies not in displacing older workers, but in leveraging their potential while equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in today’s work environment.

Learning from the ‘Curse of 35’

The ‘Curse of 35’ phenomenon offers valuable insights into the significance of age inclusivity in the job market. Canadian employers can utilize these lessons to stress the importance of age diversity, equal opportunities, and fair compensation.

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1. Why Should Age Diversity Matter to Canadian Employers?
Age diversity in the workplace leads to a multitude of perspectives and experiences, fostering increased innovation and better problem-solving. It also boosts employee morale and reduces instances of discrimination and bias.

2. How Can Canadian Employers Foster an Age-Inclusive Culture?
Canadian employers can cultivate an age-inclusive culture by valuing employees for their skills and contributions, not their age. Providing equal opportunities for growth, regular training, and skill development sessions, and ensuring work-life balance can contribute to this environment.

3. What Is the ‘Curse of 35’?
The ‘Curse of 35’ is a term used mostly in China to denote the perceived age at which employees start facing job insecurity due to higher costs and presumed unwillingness to work overtime. While the term originally gained traffic in China, it offers valuable insights into the importance of age inclusivity for job markets worldwide.


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