Analysis by Statistics Canada of the Census 2001 statistics on the population of Canada shows that the three factors that had a major impact on the Canadian workforce over the last decade were new immigrants, the demand for highly skilled workers, and the aging population in Canada.
Canada Census figures show that in May 2001 there were 15.6 million people in the workforce in Canada, an increase of 9.5 percent from the decade before.
Immigrants to Canada
Census figures show that in May 2001, about 20 percent of the Canadian workforce, or approximately 3.2 million people, was born outside Canada and that a large part of the growth in the Canadian workforce was due to new immigrants. A total of 977,500 immigrants who arrived in Canada in the 1990s were part of the Canadian workforce in 2001, making up about 70 percent of the growth in the workforce for the decade. Over half of these workers were in Ontario.
However, statistics from the census also show that there is a gap between employment prospects for immigrants and those for Canadian-born workers. The gap first appeared during the recession years of the early 1990s, and continued when the economy recovered in the later half of the decade. In 2001, the unemployment rate for new immigrants aged 25 to 44 was double that of Canadian-born workers.
Skills Demand in Canada
Highly skilled jobs led the growth in the workforce in Canada in the 1990s.
By May 2001, 2.5 million of the 15.6 million people in the Canadian workforce were in occupations that required a university education - a 33 percent increase from the decade before and a growth rate triple the growth rate for the Canadian workforce as a whole.
In contrast, skilled occupations - those requiring a community college diploma or apprenticeship training - grew at only 3.3 percent, or a third of the growth rate for the workforce as a whole in Canada. The number of people in some construction trades decreased by as much as 40 to 60 percent.
Occupations requiring a high school diploma or less had a growth rate of 5.4 percent, well below the growth rate of the total Canadian workforce.
The Canadian workforce is also aging. The average age of Canadian workers rose from 37.1 years in 1991 to an average age of 39 years in 2001. About 15 percent of the workforce was within 10 years of retirement age at the end of the last decade, and projections are that by 2011 nearly a fifth of baby-boomers in Canada will be at least 61.
Added to this is the fact that birth rates in Canada have been low for the last 30 years, so fewer young people are entering the workforce to replace those getting close to retirement.
This aging of the Canadian workforce raises the potential for shortages in some highly skilled occupations, and the likelihood that Canada will need to continue to turn to immigration as a source of highly skilled workers.