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A salute to Canadian workers

September 1, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EDT)

We have been celebrating Labour Day here in Canada since the late 19th century.

In 1891, most Canadians were agricultural labourers, with men accounting for the majority of the total workforce.

Today, Canada is home to an incredibly diverse, highly educated workforce of just under 20.8 million labourers.

To kick off this Labour Day weekend, let’s celebrate the contribution of Canadian workers with some cold hard facts.

Canada has the most highly educated workforce in the G7, but we need more apprentices in the trades

Canada continued to rank first in the G7 for the share of working-age people (aged 25 to 64) with a college or university credential (57.5%) in 2021. A key factor in this is our strong college sector. Nearly one in four working-age Canadians (24.6%) had a college certificate or diploma or similar credential in 2021, more than in any other G7 country.

The working-age population with a bachelor's degree or higher rose by nearly one-fifth (+19.1%) from 2016 to 2021, with even larger increases in the fields of computer and information science (+46.3%) and health care (+24.1%).

In contrast, the number of working-age apprenticeship certificate holders has stagnated or fallen in three major trades fields—construction trades (+0.6%), mechanic and repair technologies (-7.8%) and precision production (-10.0%)—as fewer young workers replace the baby boomers who are retiring.

Canada has a diverse workforce

Over one in four (28.2%) Canadians in the labour force or just under 5.9 million workers were racialized in 2022, including 1.6 million South Asians, 1.0 million Chinese and 871,800 Black Canadians.

Compared with non-racialized Canadian workers, racialized Canadian workers had higher rates of labour force participation (70.6% for racialized Canadian workers versus 63.5% for non-racialized Canadian workers) and employment (66.0% versus 60.4%).

Almost half of all workers (47.6%) in Canada were women. There were more Chinese, Black and Filipino women than men in the labour force in 2022.

Just over three in five Canadians with a mental health related disability are in the labour force

Just over three in five Canadians (60.8%) with a mental health related disability were in the labour force in 2021, up 8.5 percentage points from prior to the pandemic in 2019. The employment rate for Canadians with a mental health related disability rose 6.2 percentage points over this period to 52.9%.

Conversely, the share of Canadians in the labour force with disabilities not related to mental health declined 1.4 percentage points to 45.3% over this period, while their employment rate fell 2.5 percentage points to 40.1%.

Approximately three in four Indigenous people with a postsecondary credential are in the labour force

Approximately three in five (59.5%) Indigenous people aged 15 and older were in the labour force in 2021, a rate which was lower than that seen among the non-Indigenous population (63.9%). However, this trend was reversed for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among Indigenous people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, four-fifths (80.7%) were in the labour force compared with 77.2% among the non-Indigenous population. 

Similarly, almost three-fourths (73.6%) of Indigenous people with an apprenticeship certificate were in the labour force in 2021, a rate higher than among the non-Indigenous population (68.5%). 

Lesbian women and gay men are among the most likely to work full or part time

Data from the 2015 to 2018 Canadian Community Health Survey shows that, among the population aged 25 to 64 years, heterosexual men (83.8%), lesbian women (83.7%) and gay men (80.5%) were the most likely to be employed full or part time.

 In comparison, bisexual men (77.7%) were less likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be employed, and generally lower shares of heterosexual women (74.0%) and bisexual women (68.1%) were employed.

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Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136514-283-8300; or Media Relations (