Just the Facts
COVID-19 and the employment of health care workers

Release date: June 19, 2020

Health care workers continue to play a central role in Canada’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Health care workers are employed in the broad occupational category of health occupations and work across Canada in hospitals; ambulatory health care services (including walk-in clinics and dentists’ offices); and nursing and residential care facilities.

In 2019, 89.2% of health care workers were employed in a job which typically involved close or very close physical contact with others, compared with 50.3% for the rest of the employed population.

Chart 1 Women, employees paid by the hour and multiple jobholders were overrepresented among health care workers working most of their usual hours during COVID-19

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 Health care workers and Other workers, calculated using percentage of workers working most of their usual hours units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Health care workers Other workers
percentage of workers working most of their usual hours
Women 77.9 42.0
Paid by the hour 78.9 48.5
Multiple jobholder 5.7 3.7

Over the period from March to May 2020, nearly 3 in 10 health care workers (27.4%) who were working more than half their usual hours were registered nurses, while 1 in 10 were physicians (11.8%). Women accounted for 86.7% of registered nurses and 40.9% of physicians.

Chart 2 More than half of health care workers working most of their usual hours during COVID-19 were employed in hospitals

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2 Employment by subsector, calculated using number of workers units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Employment by subsector
number of workers
Hospitals 454,500
Ambulatory health care services 228,300
Nursing and residential care facilities 167,600

Among health care workers who worked most of their usual hours during the March to May period, an average of 53.4% were working in hospitals, 26.8% in ambulatory health care services and 19.7% in nursing and residential care facilities.

Chart 3 Employment little changed in hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities from February to May

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3 Employment change, February to May 2020, calculated using thousands units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Employment change, February to May 2020
thousands
Ambulatory health care services -64.7
Hospitals -4.9
Nursing and residential care facilities -2.5

As governments imposed restrictions on non-essential health care activities and shut-down parts of the economy in mid-March, some health care workers lost their jobs. In May 2020, there were 72,100 fewer health care workers (not seasonally adjusted) compared with February, a decline almost entirely driven by the ambulatory health care services subsector. Little change was observed in hospitals and in nursing and residential care facilities.

The number of employed registered nurses, who were mostly working in hospitals, was also relatively stable over this time period.

Chart 4 COVID-19-related absences concentrated in ambulatory health care services

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4 Ambulatory health care services, Hospitals and Nursing and residential care facilities, calculated using persons, thousands units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Ambulatory health care services Hospitals Nursing and residential care facilities
persons, thousands
2019
June 35.6 32.4 14.0
July 51.7 31.4 11.9
August 57.7 36.4 11.5
September 32.3 36.1 18.4
October 44.2 40.6 20.0
November 32.3 38.7 16.8
December 33.0 46.2 19.8
2020
January 43.0 38.9 21.7
February 36.7 36.1 16.4
March 199.1 64.7 27.4
April 198.4 63.9 36.1
May 184.6 47.9 30.9

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in an unprecedented number of Canadians who are still employed, but working zero or very few hours.

From March to May, the average number of health care workers who worked less than half their usual hours for reasons likely related to COVID-19 was 284,300. The increase in the number of COVID-19-related absences since February was concentrated in ambulatory health care services.

Notes

Health care workers are defined as workers employed in health occupations who are working in health industries. This corresponds to ‘health occupations’ in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2016 and the ‘health care and social assistance’ industry (excluding social assistance), as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 2012.

Workers working most of their usual hours are employed persons who, during the Labour Force Survey (LFS) reference week worked at least 50% of their usual hours.

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