Labour Markets in Canada – The changes between 1981 and 2018

The types of jobs being created in Canada continue to be a central theme in discussions of economic change and the financial well-being of Canadians. A new Statistics Canada study documents changes in some of the basic characteristics of jobs over the last four decades.

The jobs held by Canadian employees in 2018 differ in many respects from those held by their counterparts in the early 1980s. Proportionately fewer jobs are now full time, permanent, unionized or covered by a Registered Pension Plan (RPP). However, these aggregate trends mask differences between men and women.

Since the early 1980s, total employment has shifted away from full-time jobs. The share of all employees aged 17 to 64 working full-time declined from 87% in 1981 to 84% in 2018. But while full-time employment declined from 95% to 91% among men, it remained stable at about 78% among women.

The overall decrease in full-time employment occurred in conjunction with a decline in permanent employment. Consequently, the share of employees aged 17 to 64 in full-time, permanent jobs declined from 80% in 1989—the first year Statistics Canada collected data on permanent jobs—to 75% in 2018. The share of men in full-time, permanent jobs declined from 88% to 81% over this period, while the share of women in such jobs remained stable at around 70%.

Unionization rates also fell. From 1981 to 2018, the share of employees aged 17 to 64 belonging to a union declined from 38% to 28%. But while the share of female employees belonging to a union remained stable at around 30%, the share of male employees belonging to a union declined from 42% to 26%.

A similar trend was evident in terms of pension coverage. Overall, the share of employees with a Registered Pension Plan (RPP) declined from 45% in 1981 to 38% in 2016—the most recent year for which RPP data are currently available. RPP coverage fell by 15 percentage points among male employees, from 51% in 1981 to 36% in 2016. However, RPP coverage increased from 35% to 40% among female employees.

The decline in RPP coverage among men was accompanied by a shift away from defined-benefit plans. The decline in defined-benefit plans was far less prevalent among women, at least in part reflecting their increasing presence in public administration, educational services, health care and social assistance over the reference period of the study.


The 1980s and 1990s were periods of slow wage growth. From 1981 to 2001, median real hourly wages in full-time jobs held by workers aged 17 to 64 increased by about 6%. Partly as a result of the oil boom that took place from 2001 to 2008, subsequent wage growth was more robust. The end result was a 16% increase in median real hourly wages in full-time jobs from 1981 to 2018 (Chart 2). Considering all jobs, median real hourly wages grew 13% during that period. As women moved toward better-paid occupations and experienced larger gains in educational attainment and job tenure than men, they experienced faster wage growth over that period. Median real hourly wages of male and female full-time employees aged 17 to 64 grew 9% and 29%, respectively, from 1981 to 2018 (Table 1).Note 4

Median real hourly wages in part-time jobs evolved differently. Overall, they fell from the early 1980s to the late 1990s and started increasing after the mid-2000s. By 2018, median hourly real wages in part-time jobs held by employees aged 17 to 64 were very similar to their 1981 values (Chart 2).

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at The Daily — Study: Changing characteristics of Canadian jobs, 1981 to 2018


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