Are Employer Pensions in Canada Dying ?

in Pensions, Stats Canada

Stats Canada published an interesting study of Pensions last week, entitled, “Pension plans in Canada, as of January 1, 2014 “, and in it was the great news that more Canadians (total) have pensions (from 2012 to 2013). (Remember previously I did ask Do you have a Pension?)

Looking at all sectors and all types of pensions 169 more Canadians had Pensions from 2012 to 2013 (no that is not in hundreds of thousands, or thousands, it is 169). For all intent and purpose there were the same number of folks with pensions, however, the types of pensions that they have, has changed a fair amount.

  • There are 20,868 less folks in Defined Benefit Pension Plans
  • There are 6.428 more folks in Defined Contribution Plans
  • There are 14,609 more folks in Hybrid Pension Plans, where Hybrid means, “Other plans include plans having a hybrid, composite, defined benefit / defined contribution or other component.

So what does this really mean? I think the idea of the work related pension is changing (some might say becoming extinct, but maybe not just yet), and most folks (next generation after me) is going to have to take care of their own retirement savings. I was lucky enough to fall into a pension, but unless you work for the government (or a bank) you are unlikely to have a classic pension plan (private sector pension plans are down 0.2%).

This explains why you have some folks (like the Ontario government) that think that folks need to have more retirement savings, and they are going to impose it on you (with the proposed new Ontario Provincial Pension), whether you want it or not.

What is interesting is in the mid-90’s folks at Nortel wanted out of the Pension Plan (a defined benefit program at the time) because it was screwing up their ability to put money in their RRSPs (many thought they weren’t going to stay at Nortel their entire career (and they were right, in hindsight)).

Is the idea of a company pension dead? Opinions, dear reader?

Registered pension plan membership, by sector and type of plan

From this page at Stats Canada

  2012 2013 2012 to 2013 2012 to 2013
number number net change % change
All sectors: Total 6,184,990 6,185,159 169 0.0
Males 3,092,479 3,108,762 16,283 0.5
Females 3,092,511 3,076,397 -16,114 -0.5
Defined benefit plans 4,422,838 4,401,970 -20,868 -0.5
Males 2,053,060 2,044,367 -8,693 -0.4
Females 2,369,778 2,357,603 -12,175 -0.5
Defined contribution plans 1,030,319 1,036,747 6,428 0.6
Males 616,941 625,165 8,224 1.3
Females 413,378 411,582 -1,796 -0.4
Other plans1 731,833 746,442 14,609 2.0
Males 422,478 439,230 16,752 4.0
Females 309,355 307,212 -2,143 -0.7
Public sector 3,179,312 3,184,276 4,964 0.2
Males 1,183,046 1,185,486 2,440 0.2
Females 1,996,266 1,998,790 2,524 0.1
Defined benefit plans 2,995,771 3,002,068 6,297 0.2
Males 1,104,591 1,107,382 2,791 0.3
Females 1,891,180 1,894,686 3,506 0.2
Defined contribution plans 146,290 143,034 -3,256 -2.2
Males 60,749 59,493 -1,256 -2.1
Females 85,541 83,541 -2,000 -2.3
Other plans1 37,251 39,174 1,923 5.2
Males 17,706 18,611 905 5.1
Females 19,545 20,563 1,018 5.2
Private sector 3,005,678 3,000,883 -4,795 -0.2
Males 1,909,433 1,923,276 13,843 0.7
Females 1,096,245 1,077,607 -18,638 -1.7
Defined benefit plans 1,427,067 1,399,902 -27,165 -1.9
Males 948,469 936,985 -11,484 -1.2
Females 478,598 462,917 -15,681 -3.3
Defined contribution plans 884,029 893,713 9,684 1.1
Males 556,192 565,672 9,480 1.7
Females 327,837 328,041 204 0.1
Other plans1 694,582 707,268 12,686 1.8
Males 404,772 420,619 15,847 3.9
Females 289,810 286,649 -3,161 -1.1


CANSIM table 280-0016.



  • Dividend Earner August 2, 2015, 1:52 AM

    I read the link from the government and I am really disapointed that they are calling a defined contribution plan a pension plan. I would not consider a Defined Contribution Plan a pension by far. It’s like saying everyone with a RRSP has a pension plan. A pension implies a regular income and benefits received based on rules that are fixed. A Defined Contribution Plan only means your employer matches your contribution and everything else is up to you. That’s how mine work anyways …

    The employee can still royally screw up whereas a pension plan is out of the employee’s control. Sure it’s an improvement to the individual’s retirement bucket but it’s far from being a pension.

    Really disappointed they are including DCP with Pension Plans.

    As for your question, pension plans as they were are dead. They are by far too expensive and unions are by far too greedy for employees that become lazy and complacent. The accountability of an employee with a pension is usually gone because they are protected by unions and seniority. Both the union and pension systems need reform. I believe they have a purpose but they need reforms.

    • bigcajunman August 2, 2015, 6:57 AM

      I think making employees lazy and complacent is a bit over the top, but I do agree that pensions and unions need a very good rethink (if not outright removal). The only places that seem to have major pensions still are governments and banks.

  • Money Beagle July 28, 2015, 1:04 PM

    I’m a 40 year old American, and in exactly zero of my jobs have I had the ability to sign up for a pension plan. The lowering numbers is or will be a trend everywhere, especially with the globalization of the economy.

    • bigcajunman July 28, 2015, 1:10 PM

      Historically pensions came from Union negotiations (at least for Bell & Northern Electric here in Canada that was the case), but I have a feeling the pension world is slowly dying.

  • Barry @ moneywehave July 27, 2015, 6:24 PM

    I currently still have an employer pension plan. I’m well aware it could disappear before I retire so I make sure I still save for my retirement.

    • bigcajunman July 27, 2015, 7:06 PM

      Good idea, Plan B’s are very important when it comes to your retirement. ✅


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