Canadians are working later in life than they used to and delaying their retirement, Statistics Canada says.

The data agency issued a report Wednesday that shows Canadians are working longer, a trend that's been increasing since the mid-1990s.

A typical 50-year-old worker in 2008 could expect to work for 16 more years. Fifteen years earlier, the numbers suggest that worker would likely only have 12½ years left before retirement — a difference of 3½ years.

Statistics Canada took data from its labour force survey (from which the official unemployment rate is derived) and calculated the number of years a typical person in any given year could expect to work. The method used is similar to the one the data agency uses to estimate life expectancy.

P.O.V.:

Do you expect to retire at 65? Take our survey.

Up until the mid-1990s, the trend was toward earlier retirement. But at that time, high public-sector deficits and downsizing among private-sector organizations drove more people to retire earlier.

There's been a pronounced trend toward working longer ever since. In 1996, barely more than one-fifth of people over the age of 55 in Canada were still working. But that figure had jumped to more than one-third by 2010.

Retirement length steady

Retirement may be arriving later, but Statistics Canada data suggests it is still lasting just as long, because of a corresponding increase in life expectancy.

The expected length of one's retirement increased steadily between 1977 and the mid-1990s. But it has remained steady since then, even as retirements start later.

Between 1977 and 1994, the expected time men would spend in retirement increased sharply from 11.2 years to 15.4 years. In 2008, it was 15 years.

The trend for women was similar. Between 1977 and 1996, the estimated years of retirement for women rose from 16.4 to 20.6. In 2008, women would spend 19 years in retirement.

As it stands now, 50-year-old men can expect to spend 48 per cent of their remaining years of life in retirement, compared with 45 per cent in 1977. In 2008, 50-year-old women could expect to spend 55 per cent of their remaining years of life in retirement, nearly identical to the proportion in 1977.