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September 2006
Vol. 7, no. 9

Perspectives on Labour and Income

The core-age labour force
Jacqueline Luffman

  • From 1995 to 2004, the proportion of women and men aged 25 to 54 in the labour force grew steadily. However, from 2004 into the first half of 2006, both women's and men's participation rates declined very slightly yet persistently.
  • For the most part, women with children under 6 did not contribute to the decline. Their labour force participation rates increased steadily from 1995 to 2005 (from 67% to 74%). However, rates varied notably by province, possibly because of different economic cycles and child-care policies. For example, the rate in Alberta dropped 1.2 percentage points while increasing 3.8 points in Nova Scotia.
  • Seven in 10 women with babies less than a year old were in the labour force in 2005, the highest rate on record.
  • Reasons for the slight decline are complex. However, it seems likely that withdrawing from the labour force is a temporary phenomenon for those aged 25 to 54. This is suggested by a rise in those leaving for personal or family reasons (4.4% of women) as well as job dissatisfaction (3.2% of men).

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Jacqueline Luffman is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-1563 or

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