Canada is a diverse country. Its ten provinces and three territories are endowed with varying natural resources and have developed their own industrial infrastructures and labour markets. Nevertheless, education is always a major factor in the ability to find a job.
So commences a very interesting, recently published study by Statistics Canada on variations in the Canadian labor force from province to province.Â While Northern Exposure is primarily focused on labor and employment legal developments, this study warrants our stepping a little out of our comfort zone in order to keep our readers well informed. The report will make interesting reading for employers deciding on where to locate operations or how to best develop your human resources strategies for different regions in Canada.
The report is entitled “Provincial labour force differences by level of education.” (Fact sheet), Perspectives on Labour and Income. Vol. 9, no. 5. May. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 75-001-XIE,Â It is the first of a series that will examine key labor market indicators by education and province, comparing 1990 statistics with those from 2006.
Some of the reports findings are not surprising; others are much more so.Â Here are some highlights:
- Nearly half of Canada’s population aged 15 or older had completed post-secondary education in 2006, compared with about one-third in 1990.
- The proportion with post-secondary education increased not only because more young Canadians are getting more educated, but also because of immigration. “Of the additional working age population between 1990 and 2006, 84.5% had post-secondary education”, says the report.
- In 2006, the proportion of the population who had completed post-secondary was highest in Ontario, at 51.2%. It was lowest in Newfoundland and Labrador, at 43.3%. Seven percent of Ontario’s working-age population had advanced degrees in 2006.
- The report, notes, “As expected, participation in the labour force increases with education”. The participation rate across Canada is 56.9% for those with less than post-secondary, and 78% for those who have completed post-secondary education.
- Conversely, “the unemployment rate is inversely related to education. In all provinces, a person with more education is less likely to be unemployed.”
- Alberta’s unemployment rate of 3.4% in 2006 was the lowest in Canada, due to its booming resource-based economy. This contributed to more employment opportunities there for persons with less than post-secondary education. Just 4.4% of this group were unemployed in Alberta in 2006, as compared with 11.2% in Quebec and 8.7% in Ontario.
- Women represented 44.4% of the employed in Canada in 1990, and this increased to 47.1% in 2006. Women’s share of the employment pool increased more for those with university degrees. That group’s share jumped from 40.4% to 56.9% in Prince Edward Island, and from 41.8% to 47.8% in Ontario.
- Among employed Canadians, about 60% had a post-secondary education in 2006 compared with 40% in 1990. These proportions rose in all provinces, but the greatest increases in the percentage of employed people with post-secondary education were seen in Quebec, where there was a 20 percentage point rise, and Ontario, where there was an 18 percentage point rise.
I am no statistician, but these numbers seem pretty impressive. They tell me that Canada’s strategy of creating a “knowledge-based economy” is working. The workforce is increasingly well educated, both by virtue of the country’s school system but also, significantly, because of its immigration policy. That policy promotes the intake of immigrants with higher education.
While employers are naturally less able to be highly selective in boom areas like Alberta recently, in other areas of Canada employers have the luxury of recruiting an increasing number of well-educated workers. In 2006, 30% of the working age population had college diplomas or certificates and over 18% had bachelors’ or advanced degrees.Â Wow!
Brian Smeenk is a Toronto partner in the Fasken's Labour, Employment & Human Rights Group. He is also editor-in-chief of Northern Exposure and a member of the Employers Counsel Network. Since 1981, Brian's practice has focused on management-side labour and employment law. He represents both private sector and public sector employers, including many multi-national companies, in all aspects of labour relations and employment law and appears before tribunals and courts at all levels.