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Non-profit institutions and volunteering: Economic contribution, 2007 to 2017

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Released: 2019-03-05

Economic activity in the non-profit sector totalled $169.2 billion in 2017, representing 8.5% of Canada's gross domestic product (GDP). Community non-profit institutions accounted for 16.4% of the overall sector, while business non-profit institutions accounted for 10.4%. The most significant portion of non-profit activity (73.2%) came from government non-profit institutions, such as hospitals and universities.

If included, volunteer activities—which are important for the non-profit sector but not included in standard macroeconomic measures—would have added a further $41.8 billion to the economy in 2013 (the most recent year of available data), representing 22.3% of non-profit GDP that year.

Real non-profit gross domestic product increases in 2017

Real GDP in the non-profit sector (the volume of economic activity) was up 1.0% in 2017, following a 1.8% increase in 2016. By comparison, real GDP for the total economy grew 3.0% in 2017.

The increase in 2017 was attributable to government non-profit institutions, which grew 1.9%. In contrast, community and business non-profit institutions declined 1.3%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Real and nominal non-profit gross domestic product (GDP), by subsector, 2007 to 2017
Real and nominal non-profit gross domestic product (GDP), by subsector, 2007 to 2017

Health and education dominate the non-profit sector

GDP in the non-profit sector can also be expressed by type of organization or activity. Health (41.5%) and education (30.1%) generated the lion's share of activity in the overall non-profit sector in 2017, followed by social services (9.9%), including child and family services.

Excluding government non-profit institutions, business and professional associations (20.3%) accounted for the largest share of the non-profit sector. This type of activity includes the work of unions supporting their members. This was followed by social services (17.5%) and culture and recreation (14.5%).

Chart 2  Chart 2: Non-profit sector share of gross domestic product by subsector, 2007 to 2017
Non-profit sector share of gross domestic product by subsector, 2007 to 2017

Sources of income vary

Sources of income varied widely for different types of organizations in the non-profit sector.

In 2017, community non-profit institutions received nearly one-third of their income from governments (30.8%). Sales by these non-profits contributed an additional 27.8% of income while donations from households made up 17.8%. Membership fees accounted for 14.1% of income while investment income and funds provided by businesses and other institutions each contributed less than 6%.

The majority of income generated by business non-profit institutions came from sales of goods and services (61.6%), while 33.8% came from membership fees (such as condominium association fees). Other sources of income represented less than 5% of the total.

As might be expected, government non-profit institutions received most of their income in 2017 from other government organizations (72.9%), mainly provincial governments, while 21.3% was generated by the sale of goods and services. Investment income, donations and transfers from business and other institutions each accounted for less than 3% of income.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Sources of income by subsector, 2017
Sources of income by subsector, 2017

Employment rises in 2017

Employment in the total non-profit sector increased by 1.1% in 2017 on the strength of government (+1.9%) and business (+1.5%) non-profit institutions. Employment in community non-profit institutions (-1.0%) declined by approximately 6,000 jobs in 2017.

Average compensation per job was $57,000 in the non-profit sector in 2017. Employees in the government non-profit subsector received approximately $63,000, followed by employees in the business ($54,400) and community non-profit ($42,500) subsectors. By way of comparison, average compensation for the entire economy was approximately $59,800 in 2017.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Employment in the non-profit sector, 2007 to 2017
Employment in the non-profit sector, 2007 to 2017

Share of non-profit gross domestic product varies by province and territory

The economic contribution of the non-profit sector varied by province and territory. In 2017, the non-profit sector accounted for 12.3% of the economy of Nova Scotia, well above the national average of 8.5% and the highest share of any province or territory. Similarly, the non-profit sectors in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories all surpassed the national average.

Nunavut (4.2%) had the lowest proportion of the non-profit sector in their total economy in 2017. Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon each had non-profit sectors smaller than the national average when expressed as a percentage of their total GDP.

Chart 5  Chart 5: Non-profit sector share of gross domestic product (GDP) by province and territory, 2017
Non-profit sector share of gross domestic product (GDP) by province and territory, 2017

If included, volunteering activity would have represented over one-fifth of the sector

Volunteering, an important source of labour for the non-profit sector, is not included in standard macroeconomic measures. An estimate of economic value of this activity was derived for 2013 (the most recent year of currently available data on volunteering).

The economic value of volunteering would add an extra $41.8 billion to economic activity in 2013. This would have represented 22.3% of the non-profit sector's GDP in that year. Nearly one-quarter of the economic contribution of volunteering occurred in culture and recreation (23.7%), followed by social services (19.7%) and education and research (15.1%).

Chart 6  Chart 6: Economic contribution of volunteering, 2013
Economic contribution of volunteering, 2013

  Note to readers

This expanded update to Statistics Canada's previously-published Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering was undertaken in partnership with Imagine Canada.

For the purposes of these estimates, the definition of the non-profit sector adheres to international standards published in the United Nations Handbook of Satellite Accounts on Non-profit and Related Institutions and Volunteer Work. Canada's overall non-profit sector is divided into three broad categories as follows:

Community non-profits institutions include organizations engaged, for example, in social services, advocacy or sports and recreation. These make up the "non-profit institutions serving households" sector in standard macroeconomic measures.

Business non-profits institutions include, for example, business associations, chambers of commerce and condominium associations. These are classified to the business sector in standard measures.

Government non-profits institutions include hospitals, some residential care facilities, universities and colleges. These are classified to the government sector in standard measures.

The economic value of volunteer activity cited in this release is derived by assigning a wage rate for social service occupations to hours volunteered from Statistics Canada's General Social Survey on Giving Volunteering and Participating.


The Latest Developments in the Canadian Economic Accounts (Catalogue number13-605-X) is available.

The User Guide: Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts (Catalogue number13-606-G) is available.

The Methodological Guide: Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts (Catalogue number13-607-X) is available.

Contact information

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