A majority of Canadians now have completed a post-secondary education, more seniors are working full time, and commuters are travelling farther and for a longer period of time than ever before, according to Statistics Canada data released Wednesday.

The final tranche of data to be released from the 2016 census shows that 54 per cent of Canadians between ages 25 and 64 have a post-secondary education, up from 48.3 per cent in 2006 — the highest level among industrialized nations.

There was significant growth in the number of young women with at least a bachelor's degree, jumping nearly eight percentage points to 40.7 per cent over the last decade. Among young men, the highest growth came from those with an apprenticeship certificate, increasing to 7.8 per cent from 4.9 per cent.

"Young men have responded to the employment opportunities and earnings incentives in the trades," says John Zhao at Statistics Canada. "The fastest growth in earnings has been for men in these sectors."

The share of women with an apprenticeship certificate remained relatively stable over the last 10 years.

While more young women than men have a bachelor's degree — which has been the case since the 1990s — young women are now also more likely to have a doctorate, particularly in education, the social sciences, health, the arts and communication technology.

Men with doctorates still outnumber women, however, in the fields of architecture, engineering, mathematics, information technology and the life sciences, according to the census figures.


The share of women with an apprenticeship certificate remained relatively stable over the last 10 years. (Canadian Press)

Men in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields earned 23.9 per cent more than those with a degree in the business, humanities, health, arts, social science and education fields. The disparity was less pronounced among women.

The census found that graduates in nursing, engineering, education and information technology were more likely to work in their fields of study, while those with an arts, humanities, or social sciences degree were more likely to work in jobs in which they were overqualified.

The numbers also show that a majority of new immigrants have at least a bachelor's degree, while just under a third of refugees increase their education levels after arriving in Canada.

Four-tenths of immigrants between 25 and 64 have a bachelor's degree or more, compared to less than a quarter of native-born Canadians. Immigrants are also more than twice as likely to have a doctorate, particularly recent arrivals.

More seniors, fewer youth in the workforce

The largest cohort of workers in Canada are employed in the health-care and social assistance sectors, numbering just over two million. Just fewer than two million work in the retail sector. Together, these two account for 23.6 per cent of the workforce.

The manufacturing sector, however, has fallen from the largest in 2006 to the third largest in 2016, shedding 385,000 jobs in the process. Just 8.8 per cent of the workforce, numbering just over 1.5 million Canadians, are employed in manufacturing.

Nurse Stanton Hospital

The largest cohort of workers in Canada are employed in the health care and social assistance sectors, numbering just over two million, according to new census data. (CBC)

Canadians are also working longer, with 5.9 per cent of seniors — the highest share since measurements began in 1981 — working full time all year. About one-fifth of seniors worked in 2015, twice as much as in 1995.

Younger Canadians, however, are working less. Just 51.9 per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds were employed, down from 57.2 per cent in 2006.

There has been a broader shift from full-time, full-year employment to part-time, part-year work. The number of working-age men employed full time dropped to 56.2 per cent from 63.3 per cent over the last decade. The share of women working full time also dropped to 43.7 per cent.

In all, 10 per cent of men and 17.6 per cent of women did not work at all. That is an increase among men, though it was relatively stable among women.

The census also showed that 99.2 per cent of Canadians use English or French at work and that 15.4 per cent use more than one language.

But the share of Quebecers who predominantly use French at work has slipped to 79.7 per cent from 82 per cent in 2006, with much of the shift going towards those who use both English and French.

Canadians commuting more by public transit

The number of Canadians using public transit to get work has increased to a new high, up 59.5 per cent from 1996 — a rate of growth more than double that of the increase of commuters as a whole.

Still, just 12.4 per cent of Canadians use public transit, up from 10.1 per cent in 1996. That's more than twice as much as in the United States. Canadians in the biggest urban centres of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver were the most likely to use public transit to get to work.

Toronto Streetcar Traffic 20171113

Canadians are taking longer commutes to get to work, according to new census figures. (Doug Ives/Canadian Press)

"Multiple factors are behind this increase," says Jason Gilmore of Statistics Canada, "including where Canadians live, the cost of gasoline versus a bus pass, as well as environmental and health concerns."

More Canadians are cycling to work, up 61.6 per cent from 1996, while the share who walk to work has dropped to 6.9 per cent from 8.1 per cent.

Most Canadians still drive, but the share has fallen to 79.5 per cent from 80.7 per cent in 1996 — and below 70 per cent in Canada's three largest cities. Nevertheless, there are 2.8 million more commuters in their cars than there were 20 years ago. By comparison, there are only another 140,000 more cyclists on the roads.

The average commute has increased to 26.2 minutes from 25.4 minutes in 2011, with the longest commutes being in Toronto (34 minutes), Oshawa (33.5 minutes), Barrie (30.7 minutes) and Montreal (30 minutes). People are also travelling farther, with the median commute now at 7.7 kilometres, up from seven kilometres in 1996.

The average commute using public transit lasts 44.8 minutes.

Over 850,000 Canadians spend more than an hour — each way — getting to work in their cars.

"Our biggest users of data are city planners, people trying to figure out how to build and design their city's traffic infrastructure," says Gilmore. "This data will help these decision-makers."

But despite the longer commutes, the share of Canadians working from home has decreased since 1996, to 7.4 per cent from 8.2 per cent.

While much of that is due to dropping share of Canadians working on farms, even after excluding farm workers, the share of people working from home has hardly budged, at six per cent.


  • An earlier version of this article stated that more than 850,000 Canadians spend more than an hour getting to work. That number applies just to people commuting by car.
    Nov 29, 2017 11:44 AM ET