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September 2001     Vol. 2, no. 9

Early retirement trends

Patrick Kieran

  • Early retirement is now more common than a decade ago. Between 1987 and 1990, only 29% of people who recently retired did so before the age of 60. Between 1997 and 2000, that rate grew to 43%.
  • The early retirement rate was much higher in the public sector than in the private sector. The most popular retirement age for public-sector employees was 55. Most private sector workers still retired at age 65 while the majority of self-employed retired even later.
  • The Atlantic provinces had the highest early retirement rates, while the western provinces had the lowest. The many early retirements in the Atlantic provinces may be related to their higher unemployment rates.
  • More women than men retire early. Two factors may be involved-the greater number of women in public-sector jobs and the two-year age difference between spouses.
  • Early retirement was popular among people with higher levels of education and those with higher incomes. The early retirement rate was also high in industries with workers in utilities, public administration and educational services.
  • People in the agriculture sector are the least likely to retire early. Workers in this industry are primarily self-employed. Also, many farmers do not earn high incomes and postpone retirement until they can collect Canada or Quebec Pension Plan benefits.


Patrick Kieran was with the Labour Statistics Division. For further information about this article, contact Geoff Bowlby at (613) 951-3325 or

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