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April 2005
Vol. 6, no. 4

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Escaping low earnings
René Morissette and Xuelin Zhang

  • With the exception of women aged 25 to 29, employees did not see their chances of escaping low earnings increase between the 1980s and the 1990s, despite rising educational attainment.
  • Between a third and a half of male workers with low earnings in a given year had escaped this situation four years later. For women, the proportion varied between 15% and 35%.
  • Men and women who remained employed with a large firm (500 or more employees) were almost twice as likely to escape low earnings as those who stayed with a small one (less than 20 employees).
  • Among workers who changed employers, those moving to a larger firm were much more likely to move out of low earnings than those moving to a smaller firm.
  • While a substantial proportion of workers escaped low earnings over the space of a four-year period, about one-quarter fell back during the next four years.

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René Morissette and Xuelin Zhang are with the Business and Labour Market Analysis Division. René Morissette can be reached at (613) 951-3608, Xuelin Zhang at (613) 951-4295 or both at

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