Minimum Wage Workers in Canada – The proportion of employees earning minimum wage grew from 5.2% to 10.4% in 20 years

This report looks at the evolution of minimum wage prevalence over the last 20 years, using annual estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). It examines changes in the profile of minimum wage employees, first through a series of gradual minimum wage increases observed from 1998 to 2017, followed by notable increases in 2018. It then looks at changes in the average minimum wage in Canada compared with the average hourly wages for all employees.


  • Between 1998 and 2018, the proportion of employees earning minimum wage grew from 5.2% to 10.4%, with most of that growth occurring between 2017 and 2018. This coincided with notable minimum wage increases in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
  • In 1998, the percentage of minimum wage workers among employees living in urban areas was lower than that of employees living in rural areas. By 2018, the proportion of urban employees earning minimum wage had surpassed that of rural employees.
  • A little less than one in four minimum wage employees had a postsecondary diploma or above in 1998 and that proportion grew to a little more than one in three minimum wage workers by 2018.
  • In the early 2000s, retail trade surpassed accommodation and food services as the largest employment sector for minimum wage workers and has remained the largest since.
  • The proportion of employees earning minimum wage increased at a faster pace among large firms compared with medium and small firms between 1998 and 2018.
  • Over the last 20 years, the average nominal minimum wage grew by 3.5% annually while the average nominal hourly wage for all employees increased by 2.7% annually.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Maximum insights on minimum wage workers: 20 years of data

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