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Retirement looms for many rural self-employed

Statistics Canada analysis shows many lawyers, accountants and other key service 
providers will be at retirement age in next decade in rural Canada

The wave of retirements expected to roll across rural Canada in the next decade won’t just affect the farmers in your community.

Rural and small-town Canada could have fewer lawyers, accountants, doctors and funeral directors too, according to a recent analysis of the ages of those self-employed outside bigger centres.

About one in every four (24 per cent) of self-employed persons working and living in rural and small-town Canada in 2010 was somewhere between ages 55 and 64. These include farmers — who make up the biggest category of impending retirees — but they’re also the kinds of key service providers in rural areas.

“These are some of the businesses you see on Main Street,” said Ray Bollman, a research affiliate with the Rural Development Institute at Brandon University who helped compile the data.

Bollman and his colleagues gathered data from the Census and the Canadian Labour Force Survey to get a glimpse of where self-employed rural Canadians are likely to be at 10 years from now in their work lives.

The numbers are gleaned from the most recent Census and the Canadian Labour Force Survey and analyzed by Statistics Canada.

Farmers lead the charge, with agriculture being the industry with the largest percentage of impending retirees, with about 33,300 farmers or 23 per cent expected to put their feet up at some point in the next decade.

But on the horizon is a host of other retirements in other sectors and services that farmers and their communities depend on.

“The downturn (in self-employment) is being led by farming and fewer self-employed people in farming,” said Bollman.

But we’re already seeing fewer self-employed people in wholesale and retail trade, a trend expected to continue.

“Those are the Mom and Pop stores, whether it’s groceries, or furniture and clothing shops,” said Bollman.

Among other types of businesses expecting a rash of retirements are local hotels and bars. Of 5,900 hotel owners identified by the data across rural Canada 1,875 or 32 per cent are somewhere between ages 55 and 64.

Next on the list are lawyers and staff working in law offices. Of the 3,400 self-employed lawyers, 1,000 or 29 per cent will be within retirement age in the next decade as are similar numbers of accountants and self-employed doctors.

More retirements also loom in fields such as construction and landscaping, among garage and service station owners, and owner-operator truck drivers.

And if younger replacements aren’t found for the job, it may be harder to find a local funeral director too. The study said nearly half (43 per cent) of operators of funeral homes are now between 55 and 64.

Another large category of small business owners are large numbers of self-employed consultants in rural areas. That’s a category that’s growing due to more boomers leaving paid jobs, moving outside larger centres and hanging out a shingle in one of their fields of expertise. This group may expand in future as more boomers reach retirement age, noted Bollman.

In 2010, there were just over 500,000 self-employed people in rural and small-town Canada, representing 21 per cent of total employment.

Farmers are a significant component of the self-employed but among non-farm jobs self-employment counts as 17 per cent of total employment in rural and small-town areas which is higher than cities.

The median retirement age for the self-employed in Canada is 65 for men and marginally lower for women.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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