Cinq-à-sept: Supporting the economic and community integration of mature English speakers in Québec



On Thursday, February 22nd, we hosted a cinq-à-sept, in partnership with La Passerelle, to share the preliminary findings of our joint research project entitled “Supporting the Economic and Community Integration of Mature English Speakers in Québec.” The event’s centrepiece was an exhibit featuring photos and images created by research participants to illustrate their experiences as mature workers (age 45+) in the province. Our researchers additionally presented statistical data as well as key themes from the focus groups they conducted as a part of the project.

Using an arts-based methodology called photovoice, researchers invited participants to contribute pictures that evoked their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and fears, as well as the employment-related issues and opportunities they encountered as mature workers in Québec. Through the exhibit, participants were able to share these experiences with attendees, increasing visibility on the impacts of ageism in the labour market and how it specifically impacts English-speaking mature workers. 

“I guess the biggest challenge is not to buy into this idea that you have less value. […] I’m very interested in not giving my power away to a culture that might be youth-obsessed.” – Participant

We are pleased to share that we have digitized the exhibit so that it is accessible to more people and so that we can further amplify the stories of our participants. For more information on mature workers, language, and ageism in Québec, stay tuned for our upcoming report, Supporting the Economic and Community Integration of Mature English Speakers in Québec. 

Our preliminary findings in this report are:

  • As compared to their French-speaking peers, English speakers aged 55+ have higher rates of labour force participation: 
    • English speakers aged 55-64 have a labour force participation rate of 70% compared to French speakers’ at 65.2%
    • English speakers aged 65-74 have a labour force participation rate of 25.9% compared to French speakers’ at 18.9%
  • A higher proportion of mature English speakers live below the low-income cut-off as compared to French speakers:
    • 9.1% of English speakers aged 55-64 live below the low-income threshold, compared to 6.7% of French speakers in the same age group.
  • Mature workers experience ageism in the workplace, which can also function as a barrier to employment.
    • Participants described negative stereotypes they experienced based on their age, e.g. not being physically fit and assumptions that they are unwilling to work with younger managers.
    • They often characterized ageism as a lack of opportunity, e.g. being passed over for a project or promotion.
  • Engagement in work, as well as ageism-related barriers to work, had strong impacts on their mental health and sense of belonging. 
    • Participants described how work gave them a routine, a sense of purpose, and community; for these reasons, it was crucial to their well-being. 
    • Negative impacts of not working included depression, anxiety, and isolation.
    • Some participants described their need to work because their pension was insufficient to cover the rising costs of living. 

About this project: This project is a yearlong project spanning April 2023 to March 2024. It is funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and aims to strengthen the role of employability organizations that support mature English speakers and thus promote their vitality. To do so, it utilizes an arts-based qualitative research approach to highlight the needs of mature English-speaking workers and the institutional needs of organizations that provide employability support to them. This increased understanding can then be translated into advocacy efforts and policy and programming solutions.

About Photovoice: Photovoice is a research method that empowers people to document their lived experiences, perspectives, and priorities through photography. Originally developed in the 1990s by Caroline C. Wang and Mary Ann Burris, Photovoice is often used to explore issues from the grassroots level. Photovoice is valued for its ability to amplify the voices of marginalized communities, foster dialogue, and generate nuanced understandings of complex issues through the combination of visual and narrative data. It empowers participants to become agents of change by sharing their lived experiences in a compelling and accessible format.