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Study: Changing characteristics of Canadian jobs, 1981 to 2018

Released: 2018-11-30

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.

Finally, median real hourly wages were 13% higher in the first half of 2018 than they were in 1981, with most of the growth occurring after the mid-2000s among full-time jobs and among women.


The research article "Changing Characteristics of Canadian Jobs, 1981 to 2018," which is part of Economic Insights (Catalogue number11-626-X) is now available.

The infographic, "Changing Characteristics of Canadian Jobs," which is part of the publication Statistics Canada – Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M), is now available.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact René Morissette (613-951-3608;, Social Analysis and Modelling Division.

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