Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Economic gains

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.


Students will look at the changes in wages and salaries for Canadian workers, as well as the increasing numbers of occupational opportunities from 1911 to 1967, as Canada became more urbanized and industrialized. They will take on the role of human resources personnel by making out pay slips and recommending hiring or layoffs, based on trends in the industry and the personal information for their representative workers. Students will review the concepts of the Consumer Price Index and the Cost of Living Index. They will see that as wages went up, prices typically did as well.


  • To locate relevant information using historical documents.
  • To analyse, classify and interpret information.
  • To read a variety of graphs, charts and tables for specific purposes.
  • To scan text for specific information.
  • To use vocabulary specific to the topic and theme.
  • To make inferences and draw conclusions.
  • To communicate information and understanding using their human resources manager's form.
  • To demonstrate an understanding of the following trends:
    • The numbers and percentages of the population in various occupations changed during the course of Canada's first century.
    • Wages tended to go up.
    • Women were typically paid less than men.
    • Wages tended to vary from region to region.

Suggested grade levels and subject areas

History, Social Studies, Family Studies


15 to 30 minutes for the introduction (steps 1 to 4)
45 to 55 minutes to do student worksheets (steps 5 to 10)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Bookbindery – manufacturing plant where books are assembled.
Consumer Price Index – a measure of change in the price of a fixed basket of goods and services from month to month. A base year is used as a frame of reference.
Cost of Living Index – reflects the cost of items for a typical wage-earning family, not a minimum standard of living. The Cost of Living Index measures changes in the retail price of a selected package of goods and services over a period of time, including housing, food and clothing. Statistics Canada historically used an index with bases of 100 set in 1913, revised in 1929 and revised again in 1940 (the one students use for this lesson).
Human resources officers – individuals within a company who deal with hiring, firing, training and other personnel issues.
Index – a scale used to compare variables with one another or with some reference number.
Pay slip – a document providing details about a person's pay, hours worked, deductions, etc.
Payroll – the list of employees in a business.
Salary – employment income earned at a flat rate for a period of time (an amount per week, month or year).
Trend – a general tendency or pattern.
Wages – money paid for work, usually calculated by the hour or week.


  • a copy of Student worksheet 1 (printer-friendly format) for each student
  • copies of Student worksheet 2 (printer-friendly format) for half the class (students will work with a partner). Cut the worker pay slips apart for distribution. There are 12 pay slips and each pair gets a pay slip for one employee
  • a copy of the Evaluation rubric (printer-friendly format) for each pair of students
  • overhead transparencies of the worksheets
  • computer lab

Canada Year Book resources

1927/1928 (PDF)

1947 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)

Classroom instructions

  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. We will be looking at data in the Canada Year Book to help us in the role of human resources officers at various businesses.
    2. We will be making decisions about our employees based on trends in the Canada Year Book.
    3. We will make out pay slips to give to these employees. Some workers will get pay slips with a layoff notice, whereas others will get pay slips with encouragement to help our company find more workers.
    4. We will be using data from various editions of the Canada Year Book online.
  2. Talk about the kinds of jobs students know about—e.g., jobs their parents have or jobs that they have seen people doing.
    Discuss that some jobs are 'new' and some are not so new. For example, there have been teachers for centuries, but webmasters have been designing websites only since the 1990s. Explain:
    1. We will be looking at some jobs held by Canadians before 1967. Some of these still have the same name and involve the same skills, whereas others require new skills, tools and expectations.
  3. Talk about the wages and salaries people earn and what they do with most of this money (i.e., how they spend it). Ask students about how families typically spend their income—housing, food, clothing, taxes, recreation and transportation. Equate present-day spending patterns to past spending patterns: people went to work, got paid and spent most of their incomes.
  4. We will take on the role of a person who works as a human resources officer in charge of hiring, laying off and paying workers, during the first half of the 20th century. We will be making decisions about our employees based on trends in the data we find in the Canada Year Book online. Some of the information we will be using is from after the year on the pay slip; that is fine.
    We will be looking at a selection of industries to find patterns in the numbers or percentage of workers in these industries in different eras.
    1. We will see whether the patterns are related to the increase in the number of Canadians living in bigger urban areas during the period from 1900 to 1967.
    2. We will be using data from various editions of the Canada Year Book online.
    3. Review vocabulary using examples students will probably be familiar with.
  5. Review Student worksheet 1 using a data projector or overhead transparency and paper copies in students' hands.
    Be sure students understand the various categories to be completed in their human resource files and how some of these may be different for others in the class.
    1. Show them how to complete the worksheet (circle some words, fill in some spaces).
    2. Some employees' files ask the human resources person to compare their wages or hours with someone else. Show students how to complete this section of the pay slip.
    3. For some workers in some years, detailed data for wages or hours may not be available.
    4. For some, the information is clearly in the table; for others, students will need to do some detective work, make inferences or do a little simple arithmetic.
    5. For some, the necessary information is in a footnote with the table, so students will need to look carefully. They may also need to scan the text (this is indicated on their particular pay slip).
    6. During the period from 1900 to 1967, Statistics Canada did not always collect the same kinds of data or call the data by the same name or show it in the same ways: this is just another challenge for our human resources managers.
  6. Assign each of the workers' files to students working with partners. Remind students to examine the work trend in the worker's field carefully, and to use the information to make decisions about their worker. Based on the trend, does this worker get a notice of a layoff, a notice that the company is hiring more workers or no notice about this at all, because there is insufficient evidence of a trend?
    1. For example, for loggers in the Pacific region, the data show a decline in numbers of employees during the period from 1911 to 1921, so students would include a layoff notice. Later, the industry was hiring workers, and students would announce a hiring. Students will make note of these trends in their human resource files.
    Some students will have to do a little arithmetic to find the weekly wage for their pay slip. There are more male than female workers to deal with here, reflecting the data that were collected historically by Statistics Canada.
  7. Assist students as they complete their worker's file, using the various editions of the Canada Year Book online. Each pair should have their human resource files completed before moving on to the next stage of this lesson.
  8. Review with students the basic (upward) trend for wages and salaries during this period.
    1. Have selected students report on their workers and their findings.
    2. Discuss the occupations and fields where fewer workers were employed and those where more workers were hired in the decades leading up to 1967.
    3. Ask students if they can see a trend.
    4. Using the data projector and having students refer to the version on their monitor (Canada Year Book 1927, page 729, Table 1), look at the percentage of workers employed in various industries.
    5. Note particularly the percentage and trends in agriculture, logging, manufacturing and professional services, for both men and women.
    6. Students will be able to see a trend developing between the earliest date and the latest date on this table.
    7. Now have students find and look at the index for employment in various industrial groups between 1929 and 1945 (Canada Year Book 1947, page 617, Table 4).
    8. Have students find the trend for services, trade and manufacturing (all are going up).
  9. Now review the notion of the Cost of Living Index and the Consumer Price Index. Was everybody richer by 1967? Maybe they were earning more money, but were prices also higher?
    Have students find the graph showing the cost of living trend between 1913 and 1946 (Canada Year Book 1947, page 928).
    1. Ask students to speculate about the direction they expect the graph to take after 1947.
    2. Have students take a look at the Consumer Price Index (Canada Year Book 1967, page 944). As consumers, most of them will have a sense of the price of many standard consumer items. If prices have generally gone up, then wages likely have done the same thing.
  10. Summarize: During the period from 1911 to 1967, the numbers of workers and percentages of people in certain occupations in the work force decreased, while those in other occupations increased. Generally, wages, salaries and the cost of living increased as Canada became more industrialized and urbanized.


Collect the completed assignments and use the Evaluation rubric (printer-friendly format) for assessment.


Students might want to explore the topic further by making some comparisons with their own lives and experiences: What kinds of jobs do their family members and neighbours hold? How many of these are 'old' and how many are 'new'-a video jockey is new, as were jobs in television in 1957. They might want to explore wages and prices, as well. For contemporary information on economic gains, consult the Statistics Canada website and click Community profiles, also visit the E-STAT website.