Labour Market Experiences of First Nations people living off reserve: Key findings from the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey
Education and training were identified by First Nations people living off reserve as key to finding work, according to the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS). When asked what would help you most to find a job, over one-quarter (27%) of First Nations people living off reserve reported skills training or more education.
Labour market experiences are important to economic well-being, not only of individuals but also of families and communities. The APS provides comprehensive information about the labour market experiences of First Nations people living off reserve. In addition to labour market information (the number employed, unemployed and not in the labour force), the APS digs deeper, asking questions such as: Why do some people choose self-employment? How many working part time would prefer to be working full time?
Data from the 2017 APS are now available, marking the fifth cycle of this comprehensive national survey of Métis, Inuit, and First Nations people living off reserve aged 15 and older. The APS provides data on a wide range of topics including labour, education, language, housing and health to inform policy and programming activities aimed at improving the well-being of First Nations people living off reserve, Métis, and Inuit.
A number of Indigenous organizations and people played a key role in either the development or testing of the survey over the five cycles of the APS. New content for the 2017 APS questionnaire was extensively tested with First Nations, Métis and Inuit respondents before it was finalized. Indigenous people were hired as interviewers and guides during data collection. As well, various National Indigenous Organizations worked with Statistics Canada to promote participation in the APS, and to review analytical findings.
A quarter of a million First Nations people living off reserve are of core working age
The off-reserve First Nations population continues to grow significantly, and is projected to represent an increasing percentage of the total population. As it is also a young population, there is potential for young First Nations workers to enter the labour force.
The 2016 Census found that there were 251,465 First Nations people living off reserve aged 25 to 54 years (core working age). In addition, there were 112,270 First Nations youth aged 15 to 24 and close to 100,000 First Nations adults aged 55 and older living off reserve. Employment rates varied with age, with 64% of core working age adults, 40% of youth and 34% of older adults being employed. A higher share of men (54%) than women (50%) were employed.
A majority (82%) of employed First Nations people living off reserve aged 15 years and older had a permanent job. Of the 18% that did not work a permanent job, 8% worked a temporary, term or contract job, 5% worked a seasonal job, 4% worked a casual job, and 1%E worked a job that was in some other way non-permanent.
Choosing self-employment for freedom or independence
In 2017, 11% of employed First Nations people living off reserve were self-employed. About one in three (31%) self-employed First Nations adults reported choosing self-employment for reasons of freedom or independence. Among the self-employed, 30% had employees and 36% had an incorporated business. The share of self-employed First Nations people with an incorporated business was higher among men than women (45% versus 24%). Regionally, the share ranged from about half (53%) of those in Alberta to about one-quarter (24%E) of those in British Columbia.
More than half of those participating in other labour activities such as harvesting and making artwork or handicrafts
More than half (59%) of the off-reserve First Nations population participated in other labour activities such as hunting, fishing and trapping, gathering wild plants, and making clothing, footwear, carvings, jewelry or other artwork. About one in twenty (6%) did these activities for money or to supplement their income.
In 2017, 34% of First Nations people living off reserve aged 15 and older reported that they had hunted, fished or trapped in the past year; 30% had gathered wild plants; 26% had made carvings, drawings, jewellery or other kinds of artwork; and 9% had made clothing or footwear.
Nearly one-third work part time because full-time work is not available
Some people choose to work part time by personal preference, or because they are caring for children or attending school. Others work part time because they cannot find full-time work, often due to economic or business conditions.
The 2017 APS found that about one in five employed First Nations people living off reserve worked part time. Youth aged 15 to 24 were the most likely to work part time (43%), followed by workers aged 55 and older (22%). People in the core working ages of 25 to 54 were the least likely to work part time (14%). Women (27%) were almost twice as likely to work part time as men (14%).
The majority (58%) of young part-timers reported working part time because they were going to school. Caring for children was the leading reason for working part time among women of core working age. About one-third of First Nations people living off reserve worked part time because full-time work was not available. This was highest among those of core working age (36%) compared with youth (24%) and older workers (34%).
A shortage of jobs the most commonly cited barrier to finding employment
When asked about various barriers to finding employment, almost two-thirds (63%) of unemployed First Nations people living off reserve reported that a shortage of jobs had caused them difficulty in finding work. Higher percentages in Alberta (80%) and in Yukon (77%) reported this difficulty than in Quebec (48%) and Ontario (49%).
When asked what would help most to find a job, 22% reported that an increase in the number of available jobs would help them most. In 2017, 13% of First Nations people living off reserve aged 25 to 54 had moved for job-related reasons in the past five years. Higher percentages of unemployed (24%) than employed (14%) had moved.
To look for work, many First Nations people living off reserve (53%) used a combination of methods; 6 in 10 (63%) used the Internet to look for work and 1 in 2 (49%) contacted potential employers directly. Other methods included approaching friends or relatives, contacting public employment agencies, and placing or answering newspaper ads.
Older adults more likely to view their computer skills as limiting job opportunities, while young people perceive their ability to work with numbers as limiting
About half (47%) of First Nations adults living off reserve aged 55 and older reported that their computer skills limited their job opportunities, for example, to get a promotion or another job. This was higher than among their younger counterparts: 36% of 25 to 54-year-olds and 31% of 15 to 24-year-olds found their computer skills to be limiting. In contrast, a larger share of 15 to 24-year-olds (35%) reported that their ability to work with numbers limited their job prospects than those of core working age (26%) and older adults (21%).
Over one-third of those currently not in the labour force expect to look for work within the next 12 months
People who are not employed and not actively looking for work are considered out of the labour force. People may be out of the labour force because they are retired, are going to school, are caring for children or other family members, or have a chronic illness or disability. Others may not be in the labour force because, while they want to work, they are not actively looking for work as they believe no work is available. The main reasons given by First Nations people living off reserve for not being in the labour force despite wanting to work included having an illness or disability (32%), going to school (19%), believing no work was available (5%E) and caring for their children (12%E).
Among First Nations people living off reserve who were out of the labour force, 76% of youth, 38% of core working age adults, and 8% of older adults reported planning to enter or re-enter the labour force in the next year. When asked what would help them most to find work, education and skills training were among the top responses. Childcare assistance was reported by 28% of core working age women. Work experience and resumé writing skills were reported by about one in five young people.
Most First Nations people living off reserve help out in their community at least once per month
About 3 in 4 (72%) First Nations people living off reserve reported helping out in their community at least once a month. Around 3 in 10 (28%) First Nations people aged 15 and older had volunteered for a group or organization at least once per month. Over 2 in 3 (67%) reported helping people out on their own, not on behalf of an organization, for example, by caring for someone's home, driving someone to an appointment, visiting the elderly, shoveling snow, or doing unpaid babysitting.
Note to readers
This article features analysis based on data from the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) found in the booklet "Labour market experiences of First Nations people living off reserve: Key findings from the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey." The APS is a national survey of the Aboriginal identity population aged 15 years and older living in private dwellings, excluding people living on Indian reserves and settlements and in certain First Nations communities in Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The response rate was 76%, yielding a sample of approximately 24,000 Aboriginal respondents.
Estimates with coefficients of variation greater than 16.6% but less than or equal to 33.3% should be interpreted with caution. These estimates are presented with an "E" throughout the text.
The booklet "Labour market experiences of First Nations people living off reserve: Key findings from the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey" is now available as part of the publication Aboriginal Peoples Survey (89-653-X). The infographic "Off-reserve First Nations people entering the labour force: Findings from the 2017 Aboriginal Peoples Survey" and the data visualization product "Labour market experiences of First Nations people living off reserve, Métis and Inuit, Canada, 2017: Methods used to look for work, reasons for difficulty finding work, and things that would help find work" are also now available.
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).