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Retirement is not an individual project



Let’s start with a question. Is it normal that two people who do exactly the same job all their lives, at the same salary, end up with disproportionate retirement incomes because they did not have the same employer?

Allow, in a second: do we want this type of disparity to continue, even if solutions exist?

In the next decade, 1 million Quebecers will retire. And not everyone will have the means to take the opportunity to discover the Greek islands or spend the winter in the sun. In many cases, the end of the month will be difficult just by paying the essential accounts.

Currently, 39% of seniors in the province receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), a benefit paid to poor people. Only Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick have a higher proportion of GIS recipients than Quebec.

Moreover, the average income of people aged 65 and over is about 20% lower in Quebec ($40,331) than in Ontario ($49,062) and 12% lower than the Canadian average ($45,888), according to Statistics Canada (data for 2020).

Unfortunately, it won’t get any better. Because retirement is increasingly based on individual choices due to the withdrawal of employers. According to Retraite Québec, 45% of workers do not participate in a group savings plan. And those who do do not all have access to a defined benefit plan guaranteeing an annuity.

“If we leave the choices to individuals, we are going into a wall”, insists François L’Italien, sociologist, coordinator of the Observatory of retirement and deputy director of IREC, the Institute for research in economics contemporary founded by Jacques Parizeau.

I asked him to describe the wall in question. “We are heading towards inequalities between generations and within generations. A phenomenon that can already be seen among baby boomers, but which will intensify, he believes. This scenario is worrying because poverty entails a series of costs for society, in terms of health and access to housing, among others.

With the aging of the population, “we will find ourselves, in 2040, with major social problems”, predicts the expert, given the asymmetry between the number of people who will pay taxes and retirees. “Social spending will be borne by a smaller number of people and these expenses will also explode. »

This is why François L’Italien and his team suggest the creation of the Council of Retirement Partners, an independent organization dedicated to the issue of retirement. Its role would be to conduct research, advise the government and inform the general public. Its members would represent employers, unions, retirees, young people, academia and social groups, he explained last Wednesday at the first-ever Retirement Summit.


François L’Italien, sociologist, coordinator of the Retirement Observatory and deputy director of IREC

Given all the new issues emerging with the transformation of the world of work, this idea must be taken seriously. One-off events such as the inflation we are currently experiencing can also reveal certain flaws in the system that need to be considered by having an overview. The idea is not to relieve individuals of their responsibilities, but to find a balance.

Of course, the groups around the table will each have their own interests. And it will not be easy to reach consensus. But these challenges should not favor the status quo.

François L’Italien is convinced that it is possible to work towards a common goal. “We have differences, but nobody wants old people who rummage through garbage cans to pick up bottles or go back to work at 77. »

In the current context, where more and more people no longer fit into the retirement model established at the time of the man-provider-who-is-passing-35-years-with-the-same-employer, Lucie Lamarche , a professor in the Department of Legal Sciences at UQAM, goes even further. She took advantage of the Summit to suggest that retirement should be a fundamental right. “It must be written somewhere that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and the State must be the first responder of this right, but not the only one. »


Everyone should be able to hope for a retirement without poverty, emphasizes Lucie Lamarche, professor in the department of legal sciences at UQAM.

In doing so, this premise should color government decisions on housing, health and income, the academic believes. And no one would be forgotten, no matter their life course.

“Unique models don’t work anymore. From where the interest to force the note, to see all those in the margin. A thickening margin! she told me. She cites the example of immigrants arriving in Quebec in the middle of their career who will never have contributed for 30 years to the Quebec Pension Plan. There is an “uberization of jobs”, a growing number of atypical careers marked by multiple jobs or periods of stoppage (to take care of children or parents, for a special project), lists-t -her too.

Everyone must be able to hope for a retirement without poverty, slice Lucie Lamarche.

“You have to have the collective maturity to tell yourself that people, in general, will be better served, more autonomous and freer if we give ourselves good collective tools”, adds François L’Italien, specifying that there is a a host of ways to pool risk, including that of longevity.

When we see that the number of seniors using food banks has exploded in recent months, it seems obvious that a collective reflection on retirement is essential.

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