Canadians need the skills that tomorrow’s economy requires if Canada is to compete and prosper. And they need to be able to use them. This means high-performing education and training systems, supports for lifelong learning, and creating good jobs. Canada’s long-term prosperity depends on our education systems supporting lifelong learning, so that Canadian workers can adapt as the economy changes.
The quality of people’s employment is an important indicator of quality of life, a core building block for creating shared prosperity. There are many facets to quality of work, which can include regular work hours, opportunities to move from temporary to permanent employment, and access to benefits. A key element associated with poor job quality is low pay.
Canada ranked 19th out of 25 OECD countries reporting data on incidence of low-wage work in 2020.
Canada’s incidence of low-wage work was 18.7% in 2020.
OECD average on incidence of low-wage work.
Threshold: The OECD average for incidence of low-wage work was 14% in 2020.
Canada has one of the highest rates of low-wage work among OECD countries. In recent years, wages for many workers have not kept pace with growth in inflation, exacerbating challenges with low-paid work. The employment incomes of young people in particular are not keeping up with the cost of living. Low wages suppress fertility and immigrant retention rates.
Broad employment is needed for Canada’s businesses to thrive, for household incomes to rise, for the effects of population aging to be mitigated and for tax revenues needed to support essential services for a growing population.
Canada ranked 14th out of 38 OECD countries in 2021 on its employment rate.
Canada's employment rate was 73.2% in 2021.
Top 10 OECD countries on employment rate.
Threshold: United Kingdom was 10th with an employment rate of 75.1% in 2021.
Canada’s employment rate increased in 2021 compared to the previous year. Canada saw employment gains in 2021 and 2022 as the labour market rebounded with the removal of pandemic-related restrictions. However, economic slowdowns in the second half of 2022 resulted in job losses and increased levels of unemployment amid rising inflation levels.
As economic and technological change accelerates, it is increasingly critical that Canadians and newcomers alike are supported to be lifelong learners. Training is an important factor in ensuring Canada’s workforce has the essential skills required to meet labour market needs and to boost human capital potential.
Canada ranked 10th of 31 OECD countries on participation in adult learning.
The proportion of 25-to-64 year-olds in Canada who reported participating in adult learning was 46.7%.
Top 10 OECD countries on participation in adult learning.
Canada is within the top 10 OECD countries in participation in adult learning, according to data reported by OECD in 2021. However, more recent assessments indicate work needs to be done to build a thriving skills development system in Canada and to promote lifelong learning.
A growing Canada must fully support and harness the talents and energy of its young people to build shared prosperity. Youth who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) are at risk of being excluded from full participation in Canada’s society and economy, and of experiencing negative long-term economic and social outcomes.
Canada ranked 15th out of 33 OECD countries on youth NEET rate in 2021.
Canada’s youth NEET rate was 15.3% for 20-to-24 year-olds in 2021.
Top 10 OECD countries with low youth NEET rate.
Threshold: Australia was 10th with a youth NEET rate of 12.1% in 2021.
The proportion of Canada’s youth who were NEET grew in 2021, increasing from levels at the start of the pandemic and hitting its highest point since 2010. In contrast to some comparator countries which saw improvements to NEET rates from 2020 to 2021, Canada’s rate worsened. While the picture is not uniform across the country, the impacts of the pandemic have been particularly acute for young Canadians, disrupting plans for employment and education, with potential long-term consequences for career trajectories.
Post-secondary education is often associated with the highest quality and most resilient jobs. Countries with high post-secondary attainment rates are best positioned to attract investment and highly skilled immigrants, and to drive innovation and economic growth.
Canada ranked 2nd out of 37 OECD countries on post-secondary education attainment in 2021.
66.4% of Canadian 25-to-34 year-olds had a post-secondary education in 2021.
Top 5 OECD countries on post-secondary education attainment.
Threshold: Ireland was 5th in the OECD with 62.9% post-secondary education attainment in 2021.
Canada continues to increase the proportion of the population with post-secondary education and remains among the top OECD countries. However, access is not the same for all, with equity-seeking groups such as low-income families facing barriers. Access to post-secondary education for all Canadians remains a key area for improvement.
A strong education system will attract people to Canada and form a solid foundation to prepare youth to participate in society and the economy. Performance among secondary school students in reading, science and math reflects the quality and effectiveness of Canada’s education systems and high performance is more likely to lead to education and labour market success.
Canada ranked 4th out of 36 OECD countries in 2018 on performance in reading, science and math among 15-year-olds.
Canada had an average score of 516.7 in 2018 across reading, science and math.
Top 10 OECD countries on performance in reading, science, and math among 15-year-olds.
Threshold: New Zealand was 10th, with an average score of 502.7 for reading, science and math in 2018.
Canada is among the top-performing OECD countries on reading, science and math for 15-year-olds. However, there are indications that pandemic effects on education could have a negative impact on performance among Canadian students in future years, with disproportionate impacts for equity-seeking groups.