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January 2005
Vol. 6, no. 1

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Earnings of temporary versus permanent employees
Diane Galarneau

  • Temporary employment increased almost twice as rapidly as permanent employment in recent years, despite a period of economic growth and favourable employment conditions. Temporary jobs accounted for almost one-fifth of overall growth in paid employment between 1997 and 2003. This stood against the 12.5% of paid employment that temporary employment represented in 2003.
  • The characteristics of temporary employees vary greatly according to the type of temporary employment. For example, contract workers are often in jobs requiring numerous skills. Seasonal employees are usually men and have relatively little education. Casual employees are largely women and often work part time. Workers obtaining jobs through an employment agency are sometimes highly educated but hold jobs requiring few skills.
  • In 2003, temporary workers earned 16% less per hour than their permanent counterparts ($16.69 versus $19.98). From 1997 to 2003, the gap varied between -16% and -19%.
  • Of the four types of temporary workers, contract employees showed the smallest gap; they earned 8% less than their permanent counterparts in 2003. Seasonal employees, casual employees and others, and those using employment agencies earned 28%, 24% and 40% less respectively.
  • The gaps largely persist even when number of hours worked and family situation are taken into account. In general, hours worked widens the gap since temporary employees work less hours per week. Spousal earnings reduces it, given the more significant contribution of spousal earnings for temporary workers.

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Diane Galarneau is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. She can be reached at 951-4626 or

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