Changes in the occupational profile of young men and women in Canada

by Sharanjit Uppal and Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté

[Release from The Daily] [Full article in PDF]

Skip to text

Text begins

Start of text box

Overview of the study

Between 1991 and 2011, the proportion of employed people aged 25 to 34 with a university degree rose from 19% to 40% among women, and from 17% to 27% among men. Given the increase in the proportion of university graduates, did the occupational profile of young workers change over the period? This article examines long-term changes in the occupation profiles of young men and women, for both those who did and did not have a university degree. Changes in the share of women employed in these occupations are also examined.

  • In 2011, at least 20% of all employed women aged 25 to 34 with a university degree were in three occupations: registered nurses, elementary school and kindergarten teachers, and secondary school teachers. This was also the case in 1991.
  • Among university-educated men, the three most common occupations—computer programmers and interactive media developers, financial auditors and accountants, and secondary school teachers—employed 11% of workers aged 25 to 34 in 2011.
  • Among young workers who did not have a university degree, retail salespersons and sales clerk employed the most men (3%) and women (4%) in 2011. Other occupations held by men and women in this group were characterized by significant gender differences.
  • Between 1991 and 2011, the proportion of female workers rose in nearly all major occupations held by university graduates. The most significant gains were among health policy researchers, consultants and program officers (from 47% to 76%); specialists in human resources (57% to 78%); and general practitioners and family physicians (from 43% to 62%).
  • Among non-university graduates aged 25 to 34, the proportion of females rose in some specific occupations, such as police officers (from 13% to 24%), but declined in many others, such as cooks (from 50% to 33%), customer service representatives and financial services workers (from 95% to 79%) and food counter attendants (from 79% to 65%).

End of text box

Introduction

Recently, issues related to the rising educational attainment of young individuals, especially among women, have generated a lot of interest.Note1 Between 1991 and 2011, the proportion of employed people aged 25 to 34 with a university degree rose from 19% to 40% among women, and from 17% to 27% among men. The last few decades have also been characterized by increases in female labour force participation and a reduced gender wage gap.Note2 At the same time, gains were made by young workers in occupations typically requiring a university degree—particularly young women, as they became more represented in all instructional programs.Note3 Canada’s young workforce is therefore better-educated and better-skilled than two decades ago.

Amid these well-documented facts, recent results from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) indicated that retail salesperson was the most common occupation among women and men aged 15 and over, and that retail industries employed the most people in Canada (11.5%).Note4 The NHS also showed that many people were still employed in so-called 'traditional' occupations (such as nurses and elementary school teachers for females, and truck drivers and carpenters for males), thus leaving the impression that the growing share of young men and women with a university degree had little overall impact on the occupational profile of young men and women.Note5

Global changes in the occupational profile of workers, however, are the result of a number of labour market forces, including the interaction between labour market entrants and leavers, changes in educational attainment and gender differences.  Age, gender, and educational attainment are thus important dimensions to consider in the study of occupational profiles over time.

This paper focuses on changes in the occupational profiles of labour market entrants aged 25 to 34. Because they are in the early stages of their life-cycle, and because they will continue to influence the labour market as they age, younger workers are key drivers of change for the labour market. In view of the rising educational attainment of young workers (especially women), what can be said about the occupational profiles of successive cohorts of labour market entrants in Canada? Are they concentrated in the same occupations as two decades ago? And, if so, which ones? This paper addresses these questions and also provides additional information about the gains made by females across occupations, especially in occupations typically held by university-educated workers.Note6

Female university graduates are more concentrated within a few occupations

To examine how workers aged 25 to 34 are distributed across detailed occupations, it is important to focus on a restricted number of occupations.Note7 This is because occupational classification systems typically include many categories (up to 500), with many occupations accounting for a very small proportion of workers. In this paper, only the 25 occupations employing the most people are shown, on the basis of the four-digit National Occupational Classification (NOC). Consistent information can be retrieved on these “top 25” occupations over a period of 20 years from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) and the 1991 and 2006 Censuses of Population (see Data sources, methods, and definitions). To account for gender differences and control for changes in the level of educational attainment, the following sub-populations are examined:

  • female university graduates
  • male university graduates
  • females without a university degree
  • males without a university degree.

Female and male university graduates are examined first. In 1991, 2006 and 2011, the three most common occupations among young female graduates were elementary school and kindergarten teachers, registered nurses, and secondary school teachers. In all three years, these three occupations accounted for more than 20% of all employed women with a university degree (Table 1). While the share of elementary school and kindergarten teachers decreased somewhat from 12% in 1991 to 11% in 2006, and to 10% in 2011, the share of registered nurses increased from 4% in 1991 to 6% in 2011.Note8

Table 1
The 25 occupations employing the most women aged 25 to 34 with a university degree in 1991, 2006 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of The 25 occupations employing the most women aged 25 to 34 with a university degree in 1991 1991, 2006 and 2011, calculated using percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  1991 2006 2011
percentage
Elementary school and kindergarten teachers 11.8 11.0 9.8
Registered nurses 4.0 4.2 6.1
Secondary school teachers 5.4 5.0 4.8
Financial auditors and accountants 2.8 3.0 3.0
General office clerks 1.0 1.8 2.1
Administrative officers 1.2 1.3 1.9
Community and social service workers 1.5 1.4 1.8
Retail salespersons and sales clerks 1.6 2.0 1.8
Social workers 1.7 1.6 1.7
Postsecondary teaching and research assistants 1.4 2.0 1.7
Lawyers and Quebec notaries 2.2 1.8 1.7
Professional occupations in public relations and communications 0.9 1.1 1.5
Sales, marketing and advertising managers 1.1 1.6 1.4
Specialists in human resources Note ...: not applicable 1.2 1.4
Early childhood educators and assistants 1.0 1.1 1.3
Retail trade managers 1.2 1.2 1.2
Business development officers and marketing researchers and consultants Note ...: not applicable 1.2 1.2
College and other vocational instructors 1.8 1.2 1.1
Customer service, information and related clerks Note ...: not applicable 1.3 1.1
Food and beverage servers Note ...: not applicable 0.9 1.0
Pharmacists 1.2 0.9 0.9
General practitioners and family physicians 1.4 Note ...: not applicable 0.8
Accounting and related clerks 1.9 1.1 0.8
Health policy researchers, consultants and program officers 1.1 Note ...: not applicable 0.8
Professional occupations in business services to management Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable 0.8
Computer system analysts 1.6 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
Secretaries (except legal and medical) 1.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Financial managers 1.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Physiotherapists 0.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Computer programmers 0.9 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
Information systems analysts and consultants Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 1.1 Note ...: not applicable
Administrative clerks Note ...: not applicable 0.9 Note ...: not applicable
Financial and investment analysts Note ...: not applicable 0.9 Note ...: not applicable
Percentage working in top 3 occupations 21.2 20.2 20.7
Percentage working in top 10 occupations 34.8 34.0 34.7
Percentage working in top 25 occupations 52.4 50.8 51.7

In 2011, the top 10 occupations comprised 35% of all university-educated women, and the top 25 comprised 52%. Thus, more than one-half of all university-educated women were in 5% of all occupations included in the NOC classification. Similar levels of concentration were found in the top 3, top 10, and top 25 occupations in both 1991 and 2006.

Changes in the occupational mix of university-educated women occurred over the period. A few of the top 25 occupations on the list in 2011 were not on the list in 1991, such as specialists in human resources; business development officers and marketing researchers; customer service, information and related clerks; and food and beverage servers. Conversely, other occupations that were among the top 25 in 1991 did not appear on the list of the top 25 occupations in 2011, such as, for example, secretaries and financial managers, which employed about 3% of female graduates in 1991.

As expected, most of the 25 occupations employing the most university-educated women typically require a university degree. For example, elementary and secondary school teachers, registered nurses, and financial auditors and accountants all normally require some degree of university education. In 2011, about 56% of young female graduates worked in occupations normally requiring a university degree (about the same as in 1991).

Not all occupations in the top 25, however, necessarily require a university degree. Some, like general office clerks for instance generally require high school education or less. About 15% of young female graduates were in occupations like these in 2011, a proportion that varied little from 1991.

Other female graduates worked in occupations requiring a college education or apprenticeship training (e.g. administrative officers, and community and social service workers), or as managers. This was the case for 29% of young female graduates in 2011.

Male university graduates were less likely to be concentrated within a few occupations

In comparison with young female graduates, young male graduates were less likely to be concentrated in a small number of occupations (Table 2). In 2011, computer programmers and interactive media developers had the most men with a university degree (4%). The next two occupations (financial auditors and accountants, and secondary school teachers) together accounted for 7% of all male graduates. In all, 11% of male graduates were employed in these top 3 occupations (compared with the 21% of female graduates concentrated in three occupations), 26% were employed in the top 10 (35% among females), and 44% were employed in the top 25 (52% among females). These proportions varied little from 1991.

Table 2
The 25 occupations employing the most men aged 25 to 34 with a university degree in 1991, 2006 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of The 25 occupations employing the most men aged 25 to 34 with a university degree in 1991 1991, 2006 and 2011, calculated using percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  1991 2006 2011
percentage
Computer programmers and interactive media developers Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 4.2 3.6
Computer programmers 2.4 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
Financial auditors and accountants 3.9 2.9 3.5
Secondary school teachers 4.1 3.8 3.4
Information systems analysts and consultants Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 3.6 2.9
Computer system analysts 3.7 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
Elementary school and kindergarten teachers 2.3 2.7 2.4
Postsecondary teaching and research assistants 1.6 2.4 2.4
Mechanical engineers 1.6 1.6 2.1
Retail salespersons and sales clerks 1.7 2.2 2.1
Civil engineers 1.9 1.4 1.9
Sales, marketing and advertising managers 2.0 2.1 1.8
Lawyers and Quebec notaries 2.9 1.9 1.7
Retail trade managers 2.2 1.7 1.7
Electrical and electronics engineers 2.2 1.4 1.6
Other financial officers Note ...: not applicable 1.2 1.6
Software engineers and designers Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 1.7 1.5
Financial and investment analysts Note ...: not applicable 1.4 1.3
Business development officers and marketing researchers and consultants Note ...: not applicable 0.9 1.2
Banking, credit and other investment managers 1.0 1.1 1.1
Professional occupations in business services to management Note ...: not applicable 1.1 1.1
Sales representatives wholesale trade - Non-technical 1.9 1.3 1.0
Police officers (except commissioned) 0.9 0.9 0.9
Customer service, information and related clerks Note ...: not applicable 1.1 0.9
Computer engineers (except software engineers) 1.0 1.1 0.9
Administrative officers Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable 0.9
Financial managers 2.1 Note ...: not applicable 0.9
Technical sales specialists, wholesale trade/grain elevator operators 1.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
General practitioners and family physicians 1.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
College and other vocational instructors 1.1 0.9 Note ...: not applicable
Accounting and related clerks 1.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Manufacturing managers 0.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
University professors 0.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Commissioned officers, Armed Forces 0.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
User support technicians Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 1.1 Note ...: not applicable
Percentage working in top 3 occupations 11.7 11.6 10.5
Percentage working in top 10 occupations 27.8 27.5 26.1
Percentage working in top 25 occupations 47.9 45.7 44.4

Comparisons with 1991 are not always possible among men. This is because occupations related to information technology, which employ many male graduates, were scattered across multiple occupations in 2011, while they consisted of just two categories in 1991 (computer programmers and computer system analysts).Note9 Altogether, the share of occupations related to information technology rose over the period, from 6% to about 9% of all male graduates.

Other occupations employed a significant portion of men in 1991, 2006 and 2011. This was the case for financial auditors and accountants (4% in 2011) and three teaching occupations (secondary school teachers, elementary school teachers, and postsecondary teachers and research assistants), which comprised 8% to 9% of all male graduates in each year.

However, some occupations disappeared from the list of the top 25 occupations over the period. Examples included general practitioners and family physicians, college instructors, accounting clerks, manufacturing clerks, university professors, and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. These occupations were replaced by a number of occupations related to business and financial services (such as other financial officers, financial and investment analysts, and business development officers and marketing researchers and consultants).

As was the case among women, not all occupations in which university-educated men were employed necessarily required a university degree. In 2011, 51% of men were employed in occupations normally requiring a university degree (compared with 56% among their female counterparts). Conversely, 15% were in occupations usually requiring a secondary school education or less (the same proportion as female graduates). The rest, 34%, were in occupations requiring a college education or in managerial occupations.

More gender differences among those who did not have a university degree

Among young workers aged 25 to 34 with a university degree, as many as 11 occupations were in the top 25 occupations of both men and women in 2011.

In contrast, gender differences were larger among those who did not have a university degree. Of the top 25 occupations held by men and women aged 25 to 34 in 2011, just five were commonly shared by both. Of these five occupations, one—retail salespersons and sales clerks—employed the most men (3%) and women (4%).

Among women, the next two largest occupations were early childhood educators and general office clerks. Together with retail salespersons, the top 3 occupations employed 13% of all young women who did not have a degree (Table 3). Other significant occupations included cashiers, retail trade managers, food and beverage servers, nurse aides, and customer service clerks.

Table 3
The 25 occupations employing the most women aged 25 to 34 without a university degree in 1991, 2006 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of The 25 occupations employing the most women aged 25 to 34 without a university degree in 1991 1991, 2006 and 2011, calculated using percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  1991 2006 2011
percentage
Retail salespersons and sales clerks 4.1 4.6 4.4
Early childhood educators and assistants 1.4 4.0 4.3
General office clerks 3.1 3.4 4.2
Cashiers 2.7 2.8 2.7
Retail trade managers 2.2 2.5 2.6
Food and beverage servers 2.8 2.6 2.6
Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates 1.6 2.4 2.5
Customer service, information and related clerks 0.9 2.7 2.5
Administrative officers 1.4 1.7 2.4
Receptionists and switchboard operators/Telephone operators 2.2 2.2 2.4
Registered nurses 3.7 2.4 2.3
Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related occupations Note ...: not applicable 1.9 2.1
Hairstylists and barbers 1.6 1.8 1.9
Secretaries (except legal and medical) 7.9 2.6 1.8
Accounting and related clerks 4.3 2.3 1.7
Community and social service workers Note ...: not applicable 1.3 1.6
Light duty cleaners 1.6 1.6 1.6
Other assisting occupations in support of health services Note ...: not applicable 1.0 1.4
Customer service representatives - financial services 2.0 1.4 1.3
Licensed practical nurses 1.0 Note ...: not applicable 1.2
Restaurant and food service managers Note ...: not applicable 1.1 1.2
Bookkeepers 1.5 0.9 1.1
Estheticians, electrologists and related occupations Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable 1.1
Cooks 1.3 1.1 1.0
Visiting homemakers, housekeepers and related occupations Note ...: not applicable 1.0 1.0
Administrative clerks 0.9 1.3 Note ...: not applicable
Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants Note ...: not applicable 1.1 Note ...: not applicable
Data entry clerks 1.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Babysitters, nannies and parents' helpers 1.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Banking, insurance and other financial clerks 1.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Legal secretaries 1.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Sewing machine operators 1.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Percentage working in top 3 occupations 16.3 12.0 12.9
Percentage working in top 10 occupations 35.0 30.0 30.6
Percentage working in top 25 occupations 54.4 51.7 53.0

Among men, the three largest occupations were retail salespersons, carpenters and truck drivers, which accounted for 9% of male workers without a university degree (Table 4). In this population, other significant occupations included automotive service technicians, retail trade managers, construction trades helpers, material handlers, electricians, cooks, and welders.

Table 4
The 25 occupations employing the most men aged 25 to 34 without a university degree in 1991, 2006 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of The 25 occupations employing the most men aged 25 to 34 without a university degree in 1991 1991, 2006 and 2011, calculated using percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  1991 2006 2011
percentage
Retail salespersons and sales clerks 2.7 3.3 3.3
Carpenters 1.9 2.2 2.7
Truck drivers 3.3 3.8 2.7
Automotive service technicians, truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers 2.4 2.5 2.4
Retail trade managers 3.2 2.4 2.4
Construction trades helpers and labourers 1.9 2.1 2.3
Material handlers 1.9 2.3 2.2
Electricians (except industrial and power system) 0.9 1.2 1.8
Cooks 1.1 1.3 1.6
Welders and related machine operators 1.3 1.7 1.6
Shippers and receivers 1.4 1.5 1.3
Security guards and related occupations Note ...: not applicable 1.0 1.3
Customer service, information and related clerks Note ...: not applicable 1.3 1.2
Heavy equipment operators (except crane) 1.0 1.1 1.2
Janitors, caretakers and building superintendents 1.8 1.3 1.2
Delivery and courier service drivers 1.4 1.2 1.1
Police officers (except commissioned) 0.9 0.9 1.1
Grocery clerks and store shelf stockers Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable 1.0
Plumbers Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable 1.0
Landscaping and grounds maintenance labourers Note ...: not applicable 1.0 1.0
Computer network technicians Note ..: not available for a specific reference period Note ...: not applicable 1.0
Other ranks, Armed Forces 1.3 Note ...: not applicable 1.0
Farmers and farm managers 1.8 1.0 0.9
Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics/Textile machinery mechanics and repairers 1.1 0.9 0.9
Restaurant and food service managers 0.9 0.9 0.9
Sales representatives wholesale trade - Non-technical 1.6 1.1 Note ...: not applicable
Information systems analysts and consultants Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 1.0 Note ...: not applicable
User support technicians Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 1.0 Note ...: not applicable
Computer programmers and interactive media developers Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 1.0 Note ...: not applicable
Electronic service technicians - household and business equipment 1.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
General farm workers 1.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Machinists, machining and tooling inspectors 0.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Heavy-duty equipment mechanics 0.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Sales marketing and advertising managers 0.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
Percentage working in top 3 occupations 9.2 9.6 8.7
Percentage working in top 10 occupations 22.5 23.1 23.0
Percentage working in top 25 occupations 38.3 39.0 39.1

Some changes took place in the occupational profile of workers who did not have a university degree between 1991 and 2011, especially among women. In 1991, 12% of women without a university degree were employed as secretaries or accounting and related clerks. In 2011, these two occupations accounted for less than 4% of them.

Among men, things remained relatively more stable. Four of the five occupations that were at the top of the list in 1991 were still among the top 5 in 2011. They were retail salespersons and sales clerks; truck drivers; automotive service technicians; truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers; and retail trade managers. Almost 11% of the working men were employed in these four occupations in 2011 (compared with 12% in 1991).

Share of female workers rising in occupations held by university graduates

Since the share of female university graduates rose over the period, the proportion of women in occupations held by university graduates naturally rose. Which ones had the largest increases? To study the changes in gender composition, occupations held by young workers aged 25 to 34 were regrouped into three categories:

  • those in the top 25 occupations for both men and women
  • those in the top 25 occupations for women only
  • those in the top 25 occupations for men only.

In general, women made significant gains in occupations held by university graduates (Table 5). Hence, within occupations shared by both male and female graduates (the first category), the proportion of women in sales, marketing and advertising managers rose by 17 percentage points over the period (from 35% to 52%). It also increased significantly among lawyers (16 percentage points); retail trade managers (15 percentage points); financial auditors and accountants (14 percentage points); and secondary school teachers (11 percentage points).

Table 5
Share of women, top 25 occupations held by men and women with a university degree, 1991 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Share of women Rank in 2011
, Share of women, Change (1991 to 2011), Women, Men, 1991 and 2011, calculated using out of 25, percentage and percentage point units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Rank in 2011
Share of women Change (1991 to 2011)
Women Men 1991 2011
out of 25 percentage percentage point
Top occupations shared by men and women  
Sales, marketing and advertising managers 13 10 34.5 51.7 17.2
Lawyers and Quebec notaries 11 11 42.1 57.6 15.5
Retail trade managers 16 12 34.8 50.1 15.3
Financial auditors and accountants 4 2 40.1 54.1 14.0
Secondary school teachers 3 3 55.6 66.2 10.6
Business development officers and marketing researchers and consultants 17 17 48.5 57.5 9.0
Retail salespersons and sales clerks 8 8 46.4 53.9 7.4
Postsecondary teaching and research assistants 10 6 45.5 50.0 4.5
Elementary school and kindergarten teachers 1 5 82.7 85.1 2.4
Professional occupations in business services to management 25 19 47.5 49.5 2.0
Customer service, information and related clerks 19 22 65.8 62.0 -3.8
Top occupations, women only  
Health policy researchers, consultants and program officers 24 Note ...: not applicable 47.3 76.0 28.7
Specialists in human resources 14 Note ...: not applicable 57.3 77.8 20.5
General practitioners and family physicians 22 Note ...: not applicable 42.9 61.5 18.6
Food and beverage servers 20 Note ...: not applicable 57.0 74.1 17.1
General office clerks 5 Note ...: not applicable 69.3 82.9 13.6
Social workers 9 Note ...: not applicable 78.1 90.2 12.1
Community and social service workers 7 Note ...: not applicable 69.2 80.9 11.7
Administrative officers 6 Note ...: not applicable 66.0 74.6 8.6
Accounting and related clerks 23 Note ...: not applicable 63.1 70.5 7.4
Pharmacists 21 Note ...: not applicable 65.1 70.3 5.2
Professional occupations in public relations and communications 12 Note ...: not applicable 69.1 74.1 5.0
College and other vocational instructors 18 Note ...: not applicable 60.2 65.1 4.9
Early childhood educators and assistants 15 Note ...: not applicable 96.4 96.3 -0.1
Registered nurses 2 Note ...: not applicable 95.1 92.4 -2.7
Top occupations, men only  
Civil engineers Note ...: not applicable 9 11.0 25.6 14.6
Police officers (except commissioned) Note ...: not applicable 21 19.7 34.1 14.4
Financial managers Note ...: not applicable 25 34.6 46.2 11.6
Sales representatives wholesale trade - Non-technical Note ...: not applicable 20 30.4 40.8 10.4
Electrical and electronics engineers Note ...: not applicable 13 8.9 17.2 8.3
Other financial officers Note ...: not applicable 14 29.6 37.5 7.9
Mechanical engineers Note ...: not applicable 7 5.5 12.3 6.8
Banking, credit and other investment managers Note ...: not applicable 18 37.4 42.6 5.2
Computer engineers (except software engineers) Note ...: not applicable 23 12.2 17.3 5.1
Financial and investment analysts Note ...: not applicable 16 38.4 43.4 5.0
Computer programmers and interactive media developers Note ...: not applicable 1 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 14.4 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
Information systems analysts and consultants Note ...: not applicable 4 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 26.1 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period
Software engineers and designers Note ...: not applicable 15 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 15.1 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period

Gains were even larger in the second category of occupations (those appearing only in the top 25 occupations held by female university graduates). For example, the proportion of female workers who were health policy researchers, consultants and program officers rose by nearly 30 percentage points over the period. Women made a gain of 21 percentage points among specialists in human resources. The proportion of women among general practitioners and family physicians also rose over the period, by a margin of 19 percentage points (from 43% to 62%). Occupations that had the fewest changes were those that already had a high portion of females in 1991 (such as registered nurses and early childhood educators).

Gains were also made by females in the third category (those appearing only in the top occupations held by male graduates), albeit by lower margins. Notable gains occurred among civil engineers (15 percentage points) and police officers (14 percentage points). However, gains were more muted in a few occupations that had a lower female representation, especially engineering (electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and computer engineers). Hence, female workers still represented less than 20% of the university-educated workforce in these three occupations in 2011.Note10

Among occupations that were held by workers who did not have a university degree, the proportion of women increased in some occupations, but declined in others (Table 6).

Table 6
Share of women, top 25 occupations held by men and women without a university degree, 1991 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Share of women Rank in 2011
, Share of women, Change (1991 to 2011), Women, Men, 1991 and 2011, calculated using out of 25, percentage and percentage point units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Rank in 2011
Share of women Change (1991 to 2011)
Women Men 1991 2011
out of 25 percentage percentage point
Top occupations shared by men and women  
Retail trade managers 5 5 36.0 45.2 9.2
Restaurant and food service managers 21 25 43.4 50.4 7.0
Retail salespersons and sales clerks 1 1 55.8 50.5 -5.3
Customer service, information and related clerks 8 13 71.9 61.1 -10.8
Cooks 24 9 50.2 32.7 -17.5
Top occupations, women only  
Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates 7 Note ...: not applicable 77.6 85.9 8.3
Other assisting occupations in support of health services 18 Note ...: not applicable 82.7 90.0 7.3
Community and social service workers 16 Note ...: not applicable 73.3 76.4 3.1
Hairstylists and barbers 13 Note ...: not applicable 87.4 90.4 3.0
General office clerks 3 Note ...: not applicable 84.0 86.7 2.7
Early childhood educators and assistants 2 Note ...: not applicable 96.5 97.5 1.0
Licensed practical nurses 20 Note ...: not applicable 92.3 93.0 0.7
Administrative officers 9 Note ...: not applicable 82.3 82.2 -0.1
Accounting and related clerks 15 Note ...: not applicable 86.3 86.1 -0.2
Registered nurses 11 Note ...: not applicable 93.9 92.0 -1.9
Secretaries (except legal and medical) 14 Note ...: not applicable 99.1 97.1 -2.0
Light duty cleaners 17 Note ...: not applicable 67.3 64.6 -2.7
Receptionists and switchboard operators/Telephone operators 10 Note ...: not applicable 95.6 92.6 -3.0
Visiting homemakers, housekeepers and related occupations 25 Note ...: not applicable 91.7 87.8 -3.9
Estheticians, electrologists and related occupations 23 Note ...: not applicable 96.5 92.4 -4.1
Bookkeepers 22 Note ...: not applicable 93.8 88.2 -5.6
Food and beverage servers 6 Note ...: not applicable 81.9 75.7 -6.2
Cashiers 4 Note ...: not applicable 92.0 84.3 -7.7
Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related occupations 12 Note ...: not applicable 78.7 65.4 -13.3
Customer service representatives - financial services 19 Note ...: not applicable 94.6 79.3 -15.3
Top occupations, men only  
Police officers (except commissioned) Note ...: not applicable 17 13.0 24.4 11.4
Shippers and receivers Note ...: not applicable 11 16.7 19.6 2.9
Heavy equipment operators (except crane) Note ...: not applicable 14 1.8 3.9 2.1
Material handlers Note ...: not applicable 7 9.1 10.8 1.7
Truck drivers Note ...: not applicable 3 2.4 3.6 1.2
Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics/Textile machinery mechanics and repairers Note ...: not applicable 24 1.3 2.4 1.1
Plumbers Note ...: not applicable 19 0.8 1.9 1.1
Welders and related machine operators Note ...: not applicable 10 3.2 4.1 0.9
Automotive service technicians, truck and bus mechanics and mechanical repairers Note ...: not applicable 4 0.9 1.6 0.7
Electricians (except industrial and power system) Note ...: not applicable 8 1.6 2.2 0.6
Carpenters Note ...: not applicable 2 1.6 2.2 0.6
Delivery and courier service drivers Note ...: not applicable 16 7.0 7.1 0.1
Construction trades helpers and labourers Note ...: not applicable 6 5.3 5.2 -0.1
Janitors, caretakers and building superintendents Note ...: not applicable 15 24.8 24.4 -0.4
Landscaping and grounds maintenance labourers Note ...: not applicable 20 14.4 13.5 -0.9
Security guards and related occupations Note ...: not applicable 12 20.8 19.4 -1.4
Farmers and farm managers Note ...: not applicable 23 22.3 19.2 -3.1
Other ranks, Armed Forces Note ...: not applicable 22 14.8 11.5 -3.3
Grocery clerks and store shelf stockers Note ...: not applicable 18 38.0 31.7 -6.3
Computer network technicians Note ...: not applicable 21 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period 13.4 Note ..: not available for a specific reference period

Taking the five occupations that were shared by both men and women as an example (first category), the proportion of female workers increased among retail trade managers (9 percentage points) and restaurant and food service managers (7 percentage points), but declined among cooks (-18 percentage points) and customer service clerks (-11 percentage points).

The top female-only occupations (second category) already had a relatively high percentage of female workers in 1991. As a result, rather than gaining women, many occupations lost women over the period. For example, the proportion of women declined by 15% among customer service representatives—financial services (from 95% to 79%), and by 13 percentage points among food counter attendants and kitchen helpers (from 79% to 65%).

The top male-only occupations (the third category) had a small share of women to begin with—less than 25% in nearly all cases. In these occupations, the only noticeable increase over the period occurred among police officers, which increased their share of women by 11 percentage points (from 13% to 24%). Some of these occupations lost ground even further. Examples include grocery clerks (from 38% to 32%) and other rank members in the Armed Forces (from 15% to 12%).Note11

Gender segregation higher among those without a university degree

To study gender differences across all occupations, a ʹsegregation indexʹ can be calculated.Note12 The segregation index (see Data sources, methods, and definitions) can be interpreted as the percentage of women (or men) that would have to switch occupations for the occupational distribution of men and women to be the same (i.e., 50% of men and women in all occupations).

Because gender differences were more significant among non-graduates, the segregation index was higher among those who did not have a university degree (Table 7). In 1991, non-graduate workers had a segregation index of 61.8, meaning that 62% of women (or men) would have had to switch occupations to have a 50/50 share of men and women in every occupation. In 2011, the index fell by nearly 4 percentage points, to 58.2.Note13

Table 7
Decomposition of overall changes in occupational segregation in 1991 and 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Decomposition of overall changes in occupational segregation in 1991 and 2011 Without a university degree and With a university degree, calculated using index units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Without a university degree With a university degree
index
Segregation index  
1991 61.8 39.7
2011 58.2 38.6
Change -3.6 -1.1
Decomposition points
Sex composition -3.0 -2.4
Occupation mix -0.6 1.3

Among university graduates, 39% of women (or men) with a university degree would have had to switch occupations to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in all occupations in 2011. This supports the view that men and women with a university degree were more alike in their occupational profile. Similar results were found in 1991 (40%).

Changes in the segregation index can be attributed to two factors. The first is the ʹsex composition effectʹ—the extent to which women (or men) are entering occupations dominated by the opposite sex. The second is the ʹoccupation mix effectʹ—the extent to which an occupation expanded (or declined) as a proportion of the total.

Of the 3.6 point decline in the segregation index of non-graduates between 1991 and 2011, 3.0 points were due to changes in the sex composition effect (reflecting the move by men into female-dominated occupations, and by women into male-dominated occupations). Just 0.6 points were due to the change in the occupation mix.

Among the university-educated, even though the index changed little over the period, the sex composition effect and the occupation mix effect worked in opposite directions. As women made gains in male-dominated occupations over the period, the sex composition effect pushed the segregation index down by 2.4 points. However, changes in the occupation mix pushed the index upward by 1.3 points. This indicates that the occupational profile of male and female graduates became more characterized by occupations that have a relatively strong degree of female or male concentration.

Conclusion

Over the last two decades, the educational attainment of Canadians, and especially Canadian women, rose significantly. These changes, however, did not necessarily lead to systematic changes in the occupational profile of men and women. In 2011, as in 1991 and 2006, at least 20% of all university-educated working women aged 25 to 34 were employed in three occupations: elementary school and kindergarten teachers, registered nurses, and secondary school teachers. In contrast, men were less concentrated, with 11% of male university graduates in the three occupations employing the most men in 2011.

Among those who did not have a university degree, there were significant changes among women, but less so among men. In 1991, secretaries and accounting and related clerks together employed 12% of women without a university degree. By 2011, this proportion fell to less than 4%. With the exception of retail salespersons and sales clerks, the occupational profiles of men and women without a university degree were largely different, at least when compared with the profiles of men and women with a university degree.

Between 1991 and 2011, many gains were made by female university graduates, as the share of female workers increased in the vast majority of occupations. A different story emerged among those who did not graduate from university: some occupations that already employed a large portion of women became less female-dominated, and many occupations employing the most men retained a high portion of male workers. However, gender segregation measures remained higher for non-university graduates than for university graduates in 2011.

Sharanjit Uppal is a senior analyst in the Labour Statistics Division and Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté is Editor-in-Chief of Insights on Canadian Society, Statistics Canada.


Notes

  1. See Ferguson and Zhao (2013).
  2. See Fortin and Huberman (2002).
  3. See Uppal and LaRochelle-Côté (2014) for an analysis of the proportion of women working as professionals and a study of overqualification among recent university graduates.
  4. In 2011, 4.7% of women and 3.3% of men considered themselves retail salespersons. See Statistics Canada (2013).
  5. See Scoffield (2013).
  6. Boyd (1990) provides a detailed analysis of gender differences in occupational skills using data from the 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1986 Census of Population.
  7. Large occupational groupings could be used, but are too heterogenous in certain cases and difficult to interpret.
  8. The proportion of nurses correspondingly decreased among those without a university degree, because registered nurses became more likely to hold a university degree over time. See Allen et al. (2007) for details.
  9. See Data sources, methods, and definitions.
  10. This is not a surprise, as women remain less likely than men to participate in computer science and engineering programs at university. See Hango (2013).
  11. Non-officer members of the Armed Forces.
  12. See Blau et al. (2013). The segregation index is discussed in more detail in Data sources, methods, and definitions.
  13. Boyd (1990) found that the index in non-farm occupations among adults declined from 66.5 in 1971 to 57.5 in 1986, meaning that most of the changes in the segregation index took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Because of changes in occupational classification systems, comparisons between 1971 and 2011 are not possible.

Related material for this article