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Provincial labour force differences by level of education
By Raj K. Chawla
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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.This issue of Perspectives on Labour and Income launches a series examining key labour market indicators by education and province for 1990 and 2006. The variables covered include sex, age, full-/part-time work, occupation, industry, multiple job holdings, hours worked, and earnings. The objective is to provide a better understanding of how provincial economies utilize workers with different levels of education.
Nearly half of 26.2 million persons aged 15 or older had completed postsecondary education in 2006 compared with one-third of 21.2 million in 1990. The proportion with postsecondary education increased not only because more young people are proceeding to higher education, but also because of the relatively larger intake of immigrants with higher education and skills. Of the additional working-age population between 1990 and 2006, 84.5% had postsecondary education. (Chart)
In both 1990 and 2006, the proportion with a university degree was highest in Ontario, followed by Alberta and British Columbia, and lowest in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some of the growth in the proportion of degree holders in the first three provinces could be attributed to their relatively larger intake of immigrants (who are selected on the basis of education and skills). Persons with less than postsecondary education constituted the largest group in each province. In 1990, Prince Edward Island led the ranking at 72.2%, while Nova Scotia trailed at 64.3%. By 2006, the proportion had dropped, the rakings had changed and the range had widened—Manitoba led with 58.3% and Quebec trailed at 48.8%. At the same time, the range in the proportion of university degree holders rose from 6.9 points to 10.4 points, indicating that the education differential between provinces increased over the 1990 to 2006 period. (Table)
As expected, participation in the labour force increases with education. In both 1990 and 2006, the participation rate for those with less than a postsecondary education ranged from 66% in Alberta to 46% in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, for those with a university degree, Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest participation rate (91.1%) in 1990. But this fell to 81.0% by 2006, indicating that new degree holders—the majority women—were participating at lower rates. With Newfoundland and Labrador dropping to fifth place in 2006, Alberta moved into top spot. Alberta also had the highest participation rate for those with a certificate or diploma from a community college. Ontario, which ranked second in 1990, slid to fifth place in 2006 as its overall participation rate fell from 69.5% to 67.7%.
While the range of participation rates remained around 20 percentage points for those with less than postsecondary education, it narrowed from 10.5 points to 6.8 points for those with a university degree. (Table)
The unemployment rate is inversely related to education. In all provinces, a person with more education is less likely to be unemployed. For persons with less than a postsecondary education, the unemployment rate ranged from 21.9% in Newfoundland and Labrador to 7.6% in Ontario in 1990 and from 20.1% in the former to 4.4% in Alberta in 2006. Even though the overall rate of unemployment was highest in Newfoundland and Labrador, in both 1990 and 2006 its rate for university degree holders was lower than Quebec's. The unemployment rate spread for those with a university degree, however, was only 2.5 percentage points in 2006, down from 3.0 points in 1990.
Alberta's unemployment rate of 3.4% in 2006 was the lowest in Canada, replacing Ontario whose 6.2% was the lowest in 1990. The low rate in Alberta was largely due to the demand for labour by its booming economy. This also likely opened up employment opportunities for persons with less than a postsecondary education—a group more likely to experience unemployment in other provinces. For instance, this group had an unemployment rate of 11.2% in Quebec and 8.7% in Ontario, compared with just 4.4% in Alberta. This conclusion is further supported by the group's high participation rate of 66.2% compared with 52.3% in Quebec and 57.2% in Ontario. (Table)
The strong relationship between education and the likelihood of being employed prevailed in all provinces in both 1990 and 2006. Alberta had the highest employment rate in both 1990 and 2006, 67.6% and 70.8% respectively. The strong increase reflects the effect of an economic boom, which has resulted in employment growth of 46.5% compared with 25.0% for Ontario and just 4.3% for Newfoundland and Labrador. Persons with less than a postsecondary education had the highest employment rate in Alberta, 63.3% compared with 52.2% in Ontario and 36.9% in Newfoundland and Labrador. On the other hand, for those with a university degree, Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest rate in 1990 (88.3%), falling to 77.5% in 2006. As with the participation rate, the interprovincial range for the employment rate also narrowed, from 11.2 percentage points to 7.6 points for those with a university degree compared with around 25 points for those with less than a postsecondary education. (Table)
Employment for persons with less than a postsecondary education grew by 17.3% in Alberta and 8.3% in British Columbia, whereas it fell in all other provinces. On the other hand, employment levels increased in all provinces for persons with a certificate or diploma from a community college or a university degree. The growth was higher for women, reflecting the change in the mix of an economy generating more services jobs—in retail and wholesale trade and the public sector (mostly women)—and fewer goods-producing jobs—in manufacturing, construction, and utilities (mostly men). (Table)
Women represented 44.4% of the employed in 1990 and inched up to 47.1% by 2006. Although women's share increased in all provinces, Prince Edward Island remained on top with 45.2% and 49.9% respectively.1 Over the period, women's share of employment increased by only 1.1 percentage points in Alberta compared with 3.6 points in Quebec and 5.6 points in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Women's share for those with a university degree is more dramatic. As more women earned bachelor's and higher degrees, their share of employment jumped from 40.4% to 56.9% in Prince Edward Island, from 41.1% to 53.0% in Manitoba and from 41.8% to 47.8% in Ontario. Their share was lowest in British Columbia in 1990 (39.6%) and in Ontario in 2006 (47.8%). Among the employed with more than a bachelor's degree, the largest increases in women's share occurred in Manitoba (28.6% to 46.9%) and New Brunswick (32.7% to 49.4%).
The interprovincial range for women's share was 4.8 percentage points for those with less than a postsecondary education, 8.6 points for those with a community college certificate or diploma, 13.8 points for holders of a bachelor's degree, and 11.6 for those with an advanced degree. (Table)
As the level of education rises, the likelihood of working full time increases. Overall, between 79.7% and 84.8% of employed persons worked full time in 2006 compared with between 77.7% and 87.6% in 1990. The proportion was the lowest in British Columbia in 2006 and Saskatchewan in 1990, and highest in Newfoundland and Labrador in both years. Also in both years, 83% or more of those with a postsecondary education were working full time.
Between 1990 and 2006, the proportion of university graduates employed full time dropped in all provinces, with the largest declines in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. On the other hand, those with a community college certificate or diploma increased their share of full-time employment in five provinces: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. (Table)
About 60% of employed Canadians had a postsecondary education in 2006 compared with 40% in 1990. Among those with a postsecondary education, the proportion of university graduates inched up from 35.5% to 40.1%, with 7 in 10 having a bachelor's degree.
The proportion of the employed with a postsecondary education rose in all provinces over the 1990 to 2006 period, with the largest increases in Quebec (20.2 percentage points) and Ontario (18.6 points), and the smallest in Alberta (11.6).2 The proportion with a university degree (bachelor's or above) was highest in Ontario in both years (partly due to its larger intake of immigrants), followed by Nova Scotia in 1990 but by British Columbia in 2006. Despite the progress in level of education, just over half of the employed in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2006 still had less than a postsecondary education. (Table) (Chart)
People with less education or fewer skills are much more likely to experience unemployment. Between 54% and 69% of the unemployed had less than a postsecondary education in 2006, down considerably from between 68% and 83% in 1990. Although unemployment remains concentrated among those with less education, their share is falling. This is primarily a consequence of the overall increase in educational attainment in the working-age population. (Table)
A person may be out of the labour force for various reasons including school attendance, sickness, home-care responsibility, voluntary or involuntary withdrawal, or retirement. In each province, the majority of those not in the labour force had less than a postsecondary education in both 1990 and 2006. However, in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, 12% to 13% had a university degree in 2006 compared with just 6% in 1990. A similar jump can be seen at the national level. There is a growing pool of highly educated individuals who may be drawn into the labour market should their circumstances change. (Table)
- Estimates for Prince Edward Island may have larger sampling variability because of small sample sizes.
- A relatively higher proportion of the employed with a community college certificate or diploma in Quebec pushed its ranking to the top.
For more information, contact Raj K. Chawla of the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division at 613-951-6901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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