Building the Public Service of Tomorrow: How Important is Age?

PSC Vision

Building tomorrow’s public service today: modern, impartial and fair

  • The Public Service Commission (PSC)’s newly defined vision reflects its commitment to the renewal of the public service (PS) workforce.
  • To help ensure it is on track in this pursuit and to flag potential concerns, the PSC regularly monitors characteristics of hiring the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) workforce, including its demographic composition.
  • In its 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Annual Reports, the PSC reported that the size of the population of indeterminate public servants under age 35 was declining, both in absolute terms and in proportion to other age cohorts.
  • The PSC has been exploring the under 35 demographic issue in greater depth to help assess the risk it could present in building the public service of tomorrow.

Under 35 Analysis

Distribution of PSEA Indeterminate Population by Age Group, 1996 to 2015

  March 1996 March 1997 March 1998 March 1999 March 2000 March 2001 March 2002 March 2003 March 2004 March 2005 March 2006 March 2007 March 2008 March 2009 March 2010 March 2011 March 2012 March 2013 March 2014 March 2015
Under 35 17.76% 15.49% 14.42% 13.97% 12.82% 13.71% 15.09% 16.28% 16.91% 16.95% 17.06% 17.79% 19.24% 20.86% 21.43% 21.16% 20.19% 18.42% 16.99% 15.96%
35-50 62.33% 63.19% 62.87% 61.7% 59.23% 56.16% 53.29% 50.9% 49.14% 48.06% 47.08% 46.11% 45.17% 44.32% 43.89% 43.93% 44.27% 45.32% 46.05% 46.09%
50 and over 19.9% 21.3% 22.72% 24.35% 27.96% 30.12% 31.62% 32.83% 33.95% 34.99% 35.85% 36.1% 35.6% 34.81% 34.69% 34.91% 35.54% 36.25% 36.97% 37.95%

Source: PSC Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) population files

  • As illustrated here, in , the under 35 indeterminate employee PSEA population represented 16.0% of the total population, down from 21.4% in .
    • Over the past 20 years, the under 35 population has represented an average of 17.1% of the total indeterminate PSEA employee population, suggesting that the current proportion is part of cyclical fluctuations.
  • The primary factor contributing to the recent decline in the size of the under 35 population is the overall decline in the hiring of indeterminate employees.
    • In the absence of hiring, the under 35 population would continue to decline as employees turn 35 and move out of this population group.
  • Sustained declines in overall hiring could change the age demographic of the indeterminate population.
  • The last two years have seen an increase in hiring coupled with a decrease in separations from the under 35 group.

Movement In and Out of the Population of Indeterminate PSEA Employees
under Age 35, 2007-2008 to 2014-2015

  New hires LWOP return Turning 35 exit LWOP exit Left PSEA Inflow Outflow
2007-2008 8562 2203 3587 2902 509 10765 6998
2008-2009 10175 2285 3884 3234 559 12460 7677
2009-2010 8272 2717 4436 3614 534 10989 8584
2010-2011 5956 2939 4789 3749 527 8895 9065
2011-2012 4290 2929 4984 3909 489 7219 9382
2012-2013 1431 2836 4892 3851 741 4267 9484
2013-2014 2016 2654 4669 3314 534 4670 8517
2014-2015 3039 2442 4521 2751 386 5481 7658

Source: PSC Job-Based Analytical Information System for indeterminate PSEA population

Age Distribution of New Hires

  • The largest decline in the proportion of new hires for the under 35 age group can be observed in the 20-24 age band which fell from 14.0% in 2010-2011 to 10.0% in 2013-2014.
    • The proportion of new hires between 20 and 24 years increased to 12% in 2014-2015.
  • The proportion of new hires for the three age bands between 35 and under 50 declined.
  • In contrast, the proportion of new hires for the four age bands 50 and over increased.

Distribution of New Indeterminate PSEA Hires by Age Group, 2007-2008 to 2014-2015

    2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Age Bands < 20 0.23% 0.3% 0.35% 0.2% 0.37% 0.51% 0.34% 0.37%
20-24 12.45% 13.39% 13.7% 14.15% 13.16% 11.09% 10.12% 12.01%
25-29 24.24% 23.73% 23.79% 23.49% 23.99% 22.72% 22.7% 23.19%
30-34 17.79% 18.59% 17.7% 18.09% 17.63% 18.51% 18.48% 19.06%
35-39 13.62% 13.46% 13.28% 13.1% 13.04% 13.56% 13.33% 13.1%
40-44 12.74% 11.95% 11.64% 10.68% 10.85% 11.53% 10.46% 10.16%
45-49 9.71% 9.53% 9.32% 9.72% 9.91% 9.16% 9.44% 8.46%
50-54 5.75% 5.49% 6.19% 6.39% 6.22% 6.95% 7.95% 7.78%
55-59 2.63% 2.64% 2.91% 3.1% 3.5% 3.87% 5.06% 4.45%
60-64 0.75% 0.8% 0.88% 0.84% 1.1% 1.63% 1.76% 1.19%
65+ 0.1% 0.11% 0.24% 0.25% 0.23% 0.47% 0.36% 0.23%

Source: PSC hiring and staffing PSEA files

How Important is Age?

  • As it works towards building tomorrow’s public service, the PSC is weighing the importance of age in workforce renewal. There are several factors to consider:
    • The current proportion of indeterminate PS employees under age 35 is not unusual when interpreted within the context of the last 20 years.
    • It is possible that a certain degree of aging of the public service workforce is a reflection of what is happening on a broader scale (e.g., more knowledge work requiring more education, Canadians are staying in school longer, retiring later, etc.).
    • Young people may be more likely to exhibit the skills and competencies expected to be important for leading the public service in the next era. However, this relationship cannot be established until such skills and competencies are more clearly defined and can be measured.

Building the Public Service of Tomorrow

Next steps

  • Establish the recruitment objective(s) of the Government of Canada so that the PSC can most effectively help build the public service of tomorrow.
  • Determine the quantity and quality of candidates the public service needs to attract as well as what the related overall “right mix” ought to be.
    • Ensure overall generational continuity (i.e. avoid significant “demographic holes”) for all age cohorts, including the 35 – 49 as well as the 50+ cohorts.
    • Help shape the public service by hiring indeterminate employees who possess the skills and competencies expected to be important in the future.
  • Take stock of programs and initiatives currently in place that could help meet recruitment objectives.
  • Identify opportunities to modify existing programs and initiatives to meet recruitment objectives more effectively.
  • Modernize the PSC’s assessment services to better help managers make high quality hires.