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Students will examine and analyse data from various online editions of the Canada Year Book for labour and occupational information in Canada in the 20th century. They will use their analyses to reach some conclusions about changes in the labour force for men and women. Acting as job counsellors, they will provide advice for 1 of 12 fictional workers dealing with a typical issue of the period. Most workers featured in the lesson are looking for higher wages and shorter working hours.


  • To locate relevant information using historical documents.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 make inferences and draw conclusions.
  • To use vocabulary specific to the topic.
  • To communicate information and understanding using a job counsellor's data sheet.
  • To demonstrate understanding of the main work and occupational trends in the period from 1911 to 1961, such as income disparity and more workers, more women, higher wages, fewer children and elderly people working, more varied jobs available to workers, improvements in safety and fewer people employed on farms.

Suggested grade levels and subject areas

History, Social Studies, Family Studies


30 to 60 minutes for introduction (steps 1 to 6)
45 to 50 minutes to complete research activity (steps 7 and 8)
30 to 60 minutes to review learning with class (steps 9 to 11)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Agriculture – science of raising crops and rearing animals (farming).
Annual Average Index Numbers – uses a scale relating the level of employment (or another variable) at a particular time to its level at a date taken as a base.
Convoy – ships travelling under escort.
Dense – crowded.
Disparity – inequality or difference.
Employment – work for wages or salary.
Fatal – deadly, causing death.
Job counsellors – people who give advice to and assist individuals or groups to make wise career decisions and find work.
Minimum – smallest amount.
Salary – fixed amount of money paid regularly to an employee for work.
Trend – general tendency, pattern or direction of change over time.
Wages – money paid for work, often calculated weekly or hourly.
Work week – standard number of hours devoted to work.


  • Student worksheet 1 (printer-friendly format)
  • Student worksheet 2 (printer-friendly format)
  • computer lab
  • chalkboard, chart paper, overhead transparency or electronic slide for a data projector to display worksheets for discussion

Canada Year Book resources

1937 (PDF)

1947 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)

Classroom instructions

  1. In addition to student worksheets and overheads, make copies of each of the 12 workers' profiles so that there is a different profile for each of the 12 groups of students. You may decide to direct students to find their profile online.
  2. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. We will be looking at some data to provide advice to fictional Canadian workers in the period from 1911 to 1961.
    2. We will uncover some issues for workers in the 20th century.
    3. We will use various online editions of the Canada Year Book and act in the role of job counsellors.
  3. Divide the class into 12 groups. Each group will deal with a particular concern for a particular fictional worker. Distribute Student worksheet 1 to each student. Then distribute copies of the profiles for the 12 workers, found in Student worksheet 2. Each group will be working with a different profile.
  4. In the computer lab, explain the following process, which each group will follow:
    1. Find the data and be careful to follow the instructions on your profile sheet.
    2. Do not get distracted by the dense sets of data.
    3. Complete Student worksheet 1 for your particular worker.
    4. Discuss with members of the group to be sure you are finding the information you need to answer the questions for your particular worker's file.
    5. Be ready to share your findings with the class.
  5. Complete one example with the entire class. Let students know that some of the data would not have been available at the time the worker was asking for it but they should pretend they were. Find the data for experienced workers in various Canadian cities in the Canada Year Book 1947, page 648. Use a data projector, where possible, to work through the following example:
    • Louise is an experienced beautician who has lost her job in Montréal and is planning to move to another Canadian city to find work in a beauty parlour. Our job is to recommend the best place, in terms of wages, for Louise to relocate to among the selected cities.

      It is December 1946. We need to find the row and columns for beauty parlours in various Canadian cities, figure out where workers have the best wages and hours, and then make a recommendation to Louise. We'll use the job counsellor's data sheet to keep track of our information.

      Let's look at the data for beauty parlours. What do we notice first? Different measures are used (dollars per week for some, cents per hour for some). Let's measure them all the same way, then we can compare and see where Louise would earn the most money in the least time. Montréal and Winnipeg are measured in cents per hour. Vancouver has a 44-hour work week; other cities, except for Halifax, are measured in dollars per week for 48 hours.

      What's the best common measure? Let's try cents per hour:

      • Vancouver's rate is 38 cents an hour for a 44-hour week
      • Winnipeg's rate is 30 cents an hour for a 48-hour week

      Regina looks like a good bet for the best salary at $18.50 per week for a 48-hour week. What is that per hour? It works out to 38.5 cents an hour. See the completed sheet for Louise.

  6. Show this to the class using a data projector or overhead transparency.
    • What is our advice? Head to Vancouver and work a 44-hour week for the same hourly wage as you would earn in Regina. Avoid Toronto, Halifax and Edmonton. Louise's case reminds us that wages and numbers of hours per work week are different in different parts of Canada.
  7. Have students work with their worker profiles and job counsellor's data sheets, focusing on each worker's particular concern. Remind them to follow instructions about their data sets carefully, since each one is slightly different and all have lots of dense data nearby that is not necessarily part of the task.
  8. Circulate to ensure that students are finding the appropriate information in the appropriate Canada Year Book. Remind them to make inferences and think about how a real person might act. Here are the editions of the Canada Year Book that students will consult for this lesson.  Specific table names and numbers are listed above in Resources.
    • Canada Year Book 1947, page 648 for Louise.
    • Canada Year Book 1967, page 742, and 1937, page 132, Table 28 for Erik.
    • Canada Year Book 1937, page 132 for Anna.
    • Canada Year Book 1937, page 965 for Grace.
    • Canada Year Book 1937, page 131 for Danny.
    • Canada Year Book 1937, page 744 for Jacques.
    • Canada Year Book 1967, page 756 and 758 for Nicole.
    • Canada Year Book 1947, page 652 for Doug.
    • Canada Year Book 1967, page 748 for Monique.
    • Canada Year Book 1947, page 652 for Louis.
    • Canada Year Book 1947, page 652 for Carl.
    • Canada Year Book 1967, page 740 for Brigit.
    • Canada Year Book 1967, page 758 for Joy.
  9. Review each group's work with the class.
    • Who is your worker?
    • What is that worker's concern?
    • What data did you consult?
    • What do the data suggest your advice should be?
    • What did you advise your worker to do?
  10. Brainstorm with the class to decide what issue each worker's case explores and make a master list of these issues. For example:
    • not enough jobs in general
    • not enough jobs for women
    • too many children and teens working
    • too many jobs in agriculture
    • too many people over 65 working
    • wage differences between women and men and between regions of the country.
  11. Students can find lots of information about occupations, issues, labour history, and working in general, on the website (Canadian Encyclopedia) and the Library and Archives website, as well as in most textbooks. Statistics Canada's website also includes lots of data about workers. To get recent information about local communities, go to Statistics Canada's home page and click the Community profiles link.


Collect the completed assignments and use the Teacher version (printer-friendly format) to mark them.


Students can role play the workers and job counsellors and conduct mini-interviews where the counsellors advise the workers and explain their decisions using Canada Year Book data.

Students can do some research and create their own worker profiles, both historical and current. They can use the concepts and ideas in this lesson and challenge their classmates.