Self-employment rises across Canada – except in Alberta

Independence and freedom was paramount – particularly for those aged 55 or older: StatsCan

Data released on Tuesday by Statistics Canada indicates that in 2018, 2.9 million Canadians were self-employed, up from 1.2 million in 1976, and self-employed workers accounted for 15 per cent of total employment, up from 12 per cent four decades earlier.

However, in Alberta, self-employment declined to 17.2 per cent in 2018 from 18.1 per cent in 1976.

“One-third of self-employed workers cited independence, freedom, being one’s own boss as the main reason they were in self-employment. Nature of the job was the second most common reason for being in self-employment,” said the federal agency.

“For self-employed workers of all age groups, independence and freedom was paramount – particularly for those aged 55 or older. More women than men indicated that work-family balance and flexible hours were top reasons motivating their self-employment.”

The report said that data from the Labour Force Survey shows increases in self-employment during 2007 and 2008 – peak years of the most recent pre-recession labour market – that exceeded growth in the number of employees. Yet the number of self-employed workers also rose in 2009 – a recession year – as the number of employees fell. During the last decade, the rate of self-employment – the number of self-employed workers as a share of total employment – has been stable, hovering around 15 per cent.

Among all self-employed workers, those who were incorporated (with or without paid help) made up 46 per cent in 2018, up from 21 per cent in 1976. At the same time, the share of those who were unincorporated (with or without paid help) fell from 68 per cent to 53 per cent, while the share of unpaid family workers dropped from 11 per cent to one per cent, explained StatsCan.

“Agriculture remains the industry with the highest prevalence of self-employment, although the proportion fell from 68 per cent in 1987 (when such data first became available) to 57 per cent in 2018. … This likely reflects the rising trend in farm concentration and industrialization of agriculture,” said StatsCan.

“Professional, scientific and technical services have emerged as the industry with the second highest rate of self-employment among all industries (32 per cent in 2018, up from nearly 27 per cent in 1987). Professional, scientific and technical services include occupations in legal services, accounting, architectural, engineering and related services, computer systems designs, management, scientific and technical consulting, as well as scientific research and development. This is one of the higher paid industries, and much of the expertise in it requires university or college education.”

– Mario Toneguzzi


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