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Quick Facts on Education Trends in Canada

By Kristine St-Laurent

Talent and skills are the most powerful ingredients in building a thriving knowledge-based economy. With rising demand in the labour market for expertise and technical know-how, post-secondary education is ever more critical to success—and the majority of Canadians seem to agree, as evidenced in the final batch of 2016 Census data on education.

The latest results from Statistics Canada show that in the last decade Canada has become much more educated.  Nationwide, a rising share of the population has acquired some form of post-secondary education – a degree, a college credential, or a trades certificate.

Here are some quick facts on education trends in Canada:

 

Fact #1:  Canadians are highly educated

According to 2016 Census data, over half (54%) of all Canadians aged 25 to 64 years had either college or university credentials (Table 1). A decade previously just under half (48.3%) of the same age group had post-secondary qualifications. 

TABLE 1:  EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT FOR THE POPULATION AGED 25 TO 64, CANADA, 2016

Highest Level Attained           %         
Bachelor's degree or higher 28.5
University below a bachelor's 3.1
College diploma 22.4
Apprenticeship or other trades certificate[1]            10.8
High School diploma 23.7
No certificate, diploma or degree 11.5

          Source:  Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2016.

 

At the international level, Canada has the most highly-educated population between the ages of 25 to 64 years among all countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Comparatively, the OECD average was just 36.7% (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1:  PERCENT OF PEOPLE WITH COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY DEGREES
BY COUNTRY, 2016, AGES 25 TO 64 YEARS

 

          Source:  OECD Education at a Glance, 2017.

 

Fact #2:  Young women hold the majority of university credentials

Women in Canada between the ages of 25 and 34 are highly educated: 4 out of 10 had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016, up almost ten percentage points from 2006 (Figure 2). And for the first time in Census history, women accounted for slightly over half of younger Canadians (25 to 34 years) with an earned doctorate (50.6%).

Within certain fields of study, however, gender imbalances persist.  Men between 25 and 34 years continue to outnumber young women three-to-one in STEM-related fields. The inverse holds true for health-related fields.  For instance, young women accounted for 93% of nursing graduates and slightly more than 64% of young adults aged 25 to 34 with medical degrees in 2016. While the underrepresentation of women in STEM-fields remains a cause for concern, the good news is that young graduates with health care skills are very likely to find work that a) matches their studies; and b) provides higher-than-average earnings.  For example, the 2016 nation-wide median earnings of young women with a bachelor’s of nursing were $75,027.[2] These findings reflect strong demand for health-related skills in an aging population.

FIGURE 2:  PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN AND MEN AGED 25 TO 34
WITH A BACHELOR'S DEGREE OR HIGHER, CANADA, 2006 AND 2016

 

          Source:  Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2016.

 

Fact #3:  More men are transitioning into technical and trades education

As young women make steady gains in the university space, young men have identified job and earnings opportunities in the skilled trades sector. The share of young men aged 25 to 34 years with an apprenticeship certificate as their highest level of education increased from 4.9% in 2006 to 7.8% in 2016 (Figure 3). Men with technical and trades qualifications posted solid gains in earnings between the ages of 25 and 64 years, with median earnings of $72,955 reported in the 2016 Census.  Median income for this cohort shot up 14% within the last decade and represents the fastest income growth among men with all types of educational credentials between 2006 and 2016.

In comparison, young women’s apprenticeship credentials remain relatively stable. Of the 1.6% women who had an apprenticeship qualification in 2016, 30% were granted in hairstyling.

FIGURE 3:  PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN AND MEN AGED 25 TO 34 YEARS
WITH AN APPRENTICESHIP CERTIFICATE[3], CANADA, 2006 AND 2016

 

          Source:  Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2016.

 

Fact #4:  Immigrants with a master’s or doctorate degree are twice that of the Canadian-born population

Highly educated immigrants are an important part of Canada’s strategy for offsetting the impact of population aging and a shrinking labour pool.  First generation immigrants accounted for 23.8% of the Canadian labour force in 2016, up from 21.2% in 2006. The 2016 figure is expected to climb in future census profiles as the federal government continues to target higher annual immigration levels.  Well educated immigrants contribute to Canada’s competitiveness and productivity potential.  But many newcomers struggle to make their way in the labour market, in part due to language issues and challenges around credential recognition. 

FIGURE 4:  PERCENTAGE OF THE CANADIAN POPULATION
WITH SELECTED DEGREES, 2016, AGES 25 TO 64 YEARS[4]

          Source:  Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2016.

 

Looking ahead, a concerted effort is needed to continue to improve the educational qualifications of the population, while also ensuring broad alignment between the skills sought by employers and those acquired by young adults graduating from post-secondary programs. 



[1] This category includes those with a Certificate of Apprenticeship, a Certificate of Qualification or a journeyperson's designation, as well as those with a non-apprenticeship trades certificate.

[2] In comparison, median earnings for young women (25 to 34 years) with a bachelor’s degree in engineering were $75,023. These two fields provided the highest median earnings for young women.

[3] Category includes those with a Certificate of Apprenticeship, a Certificate of Qualification or a journeyperson's designation.  It does not include non-apprenticeship trades certificates, which account for the remaining 1.4% of total trade credentials in 2016. 

[4] Recent immigrants are those who first obtained landed immigrant status or permanent resident status between January 1, 2011 and May 10, 2016.