Generally Eclectic

Aboriginal Issues

The Aboriginal Labour Force and Highest Level of Schooling

This web page looks at Aboriginal Canadians on and off reserve of working age in terms of labour force activity (not in the labour force, unemployed and employed) and highest level of schooling. As a point of reference, Aboriginal Canadians are compared to non-Aboriginal Canadians. The source of the information is the 2006 Census. See Census Notes.

Not in the Labour Force

The Data(2006 Census)

Highest certificate, diploma or degree Non-Aboriginal
Canadians
Aboriginal
Off-Reserve
Aboriginal
On Reserve
Percentage 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
No certificate, diploma or degree 40.0% 60.0% 77.6%
Certificate, diploma or degree 60.0% 40.0% 22.4%
High school certificate or equivalent [5] 24.3% 18.2% 11.2%
Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 9.0% 8.2% 4.9%
College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma [6] 11.6% 8.9% 4.3%
University certificate, diploma or degree 15.1% 4.7% 2.0%
University certificate or diploma below bachelor level 4.0% 1.9% 1.1%
University certificate or degree 11.1% 2.9% 1.0%
Bachelor's degree 6.8% 1.8% 0.6%
University certificate or diploma above bachelor level 1.4% 0.5% 0.2%
Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry 0.3% 0.0% 0.0%
Master's degree 2.1% 0.4% 0.1%
Earned doctorate 0.5% 0.1% 0.1%

The Story in the Data

Among non-Aboriginal Canadians in 2006, those of working age population who were neither employed nor looking for work represented 33.1 percent of their population. Among Aboriginal Canadians off reserve, those of working age who were neither employed nor looking for work represented a similar 33.4 percent of their population. However, among Aboriginal Canadians on reserve, those of working age who were neither employed nor looking for work represented 47.8 percent of their population. The large discrepancy regarding "participation in the economy" (i.e. of working age but neither working nor looking for work) begs the question why were Aboriginal Canadians on reserve neither working nor looking for work to the same extent as other Canadians.

Lack of schooling provides one explanation. Only 22.4 percent of Aboriginal Canadians on reserve of working age who were neither working nor looking for work had a certificate, diploma, or degree, compared to 60.0 percent of non-Aboriginal Canadians and 40.0 percent of Aboriginal Canadians off reserve. With such a large percentage of Aboriginal Canadians on reserve without a certificate, diploma or degree, many may have felt it was useless to look for work, because they lacked the skills to get a job.

Lack of schooling cannot be the only explanation for the low participation rate in the economy among Aboriginal Canadians on reserve, however. Aboriginal Canadians off reserve participated in the economy (i.e. worked or looked for work) to the same extent as non-Aboriginal Canadians, despite the fact that they had acquired significantly less schooling credentials.

The numbers suggest significant failings in the school system related to Aboriginal Canadians, particularly on reserve, over decades. Even if the failings in the school system were suddenly and miraculously rectified tomorrow, the legacy of past deficiencies would continue for decades.

See Census Numbers - Not in the Labour Force.

The Unemployed

The Data (2006 Census)

Highest certificate, diploma or degree Non-Aboriginal
Canadians
Aboriginal
Off-Reserve
Aboriginal
On Reserve
Percentage 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
No certificate, diploma or degree 24.3% 42.2% 55.7%
Certificate, diploma or degree 75.7% 57.8% 44.3%
High school certificate or equivalent [5] 29.6% 24.3% 17.3%
Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 11.0% 12.7% 13.8%
College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma [6] 15.5% 14.2% 9.2%
University certificate, diploma or degree 19.7% 6.7% 4.1%
University certificate or diploma below bachelor level 3.8% 2.3% 2.4%
University certificate or degree 15.9% 4.4% 1.7%
Bachelor's degree 10.7% 3.5% 1.2%
University certificate or diploma above bachelor level 1.5% 0.3% 0.3%
Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry 0.3% 0.0% 0.0%
Master's degree 3.0% 0.4% 0.1%
Earned doctorate 0.5% 0.1% 0.0%

The Story in the Data

Unemployment (i.e. of working age, looking for work and unable to find it) in 2006 among non-Aboriginal Canadians was 6.3 percent. For Aboriginal Canadians off reserve, the corresponding figure was 12.2 percent, and for Aboriginal Canadians on reserve, the figure was 24.7 percent. If one looks at the composition of the unemployed population within the three groups in terms of highest level of schooling, it is clear that the Aboriginal population on reserve acquired significantly less schooling than the Aboriginal population off reserve, and the Aboriginal population off reserve acquired significantly less schooling than non-Aboriginal Canadians. To illustrate, 55.7 percent of Aboriginal Canadians on reserve did not have a certificate, diploma or degree, compared to 42.2 percent of Aboriginal Canadians off reserve and 24.3 percent of non-Aboriginal Canadians.

In almost every category of school achievement in 2006, unemployed non-Aboriginal Canadians were more schooled than unemployed Aboriginal Canadians off reserve and unemployed Aboriginal Canadians off reserve were more schooled than unemployed Aboriginal Canadians on reserve. For example, 19.7 percent of unemployed non-Aboriginal Canadians had a university certificate, diploma or degree, compared to 6.7 percent of unemployed Aboriginal Canadians off reserve, and 4.1 percent of Aboriginal Canadians on reserve.

The only category where the percentage of unemployed Aboriginal Canadians on reserve was higher than the corresponding percentages for the other two groups was "apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma", where 13.8 percent of unemployed Aboriginal Canadians on reserve had achieved this level of schooling, compared to 12.7 percent of unemployed Aboriginal Canadians off reserve and 11.0 percent of unemployed non-Aboriginal Canadians. One possible explanation for the relatively high percentages for Aboriginal Canadians on and off reserve in the "apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma" category was the presence of a number of programs targeted at Aboriginal Canadians and designed so that the lack of formal schooling did not constitute a total obstacle to the acquisition of skills.

See Census Numbers - The Unemployed.

The Employed

The Data (2006 Census)

Highest certificate, diploma or degree Non-Aboriginal
Canadians
Aboriginal
Off-Reserve
Aboriginal
On Reserve
Percentage 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
No certificate, diploma or degree 14.1% 25.6% 38.8%
Certificate, diploma or degree 85.9% 74.4% 61.2%
High school certificate or equivalent [5] 26.1% 27.4% 18.6%
Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 11.8% 14.0% 14.1%
College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma [6] 20.6% 20.2% 17.8%
University certificate, diploma or degree 27.4% 12.7% 10.8%
University certificate or diploma below bachelor level 4.8% 3.4% 4.8%
University certificate or degree 22.7% 9.3% 5.9%
Bachelor's degree 14.6% 6.7% 4.4%
University certificate or diploma above bachelor level 2.3% 1.0% 0.9%
Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry 0.7% 0.1% 0.0%
Master's degree 4.2% 1.3% 0.5%
Earned doctorate 0.8% 0.2% 0.1%

The Story in the Data

Among those that were working in 2006, non-Aboriginal Canadians had generally achieved higher levels of schooling than Aboriginal Canadians off reserve, who in turn achieved higher levels of education than Aboriginal Canadians on reserve. The higher qualifications for non-Aboriginal Canadians likely translated into higher salaries.

Note the relatively high percentage of Aboriginal Canadians on and off reserve who had "apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma" as the highest level of schooling, relative to non-Aboriginal Canadians. This was probably the result of programs targeted at Aboriginal Canadians and designed to allow the attainment of work place skills without necessarily having high school certification.

See Census Numbers - The Employed.

Census Notes

  1. Excludes census data for one or more incompletely enumerated Indian reserves or Indian settlements.
  2. Included in the Aboriginal population are those persons who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group, that is, North American Indian, Métis or Inuit, and/or those who reported being a Treaty Indian or a Registered Indian, as defined by the Indian Act of Canada, and/or those who reported they were members of an Indian band or First Nation.
  3. Users should be aware that the counts for this item are more affected than most by the incomplete enumeration of certain Indian reserves and Indian settlements. The extent of the impact will depend on the geographic area under study. In 2006, a total of 22 Indian reserves and Indian settlements were incompletely enumerated by the census. The populations of these 22 communities are not included in the census counts.
  4. 'Highest certificate, diploma or degree' refers to the highest certificate, diploma or degree completed based on a hierarchy which is generally related to the amount of time spent 'in-class'. For post secondary completers, a university education is considered to be a higher level of schooling than a college education, while a college education is considered to be a higher level of education than in the trades. Although some trades requirements may take as long or longer to complete than a given college or university program, the majority of time is spent in on-the-job paid training and less time is spent in the classroom.
  5. 'High school certificate or equivalent' includes persons who have graduated from a secondary school or equivalent. Excludes persons with a post secondary certificate, diploma or degree. Examples of post secondary institutions include community colleges, institutes of technology, CEGEPs, private trade schools, private business colleges, schools of nursing and universities.
  6. 'College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma' replaces the category 'Other non university certificate or diploma' in previous censuses. This category includes accreditation by non degree-granting institutions such as community colleges, CEGEPs, private business colleges and technical institutes.

    Source: Statistics Canada - 2006 Census. Catalogue Number 97-560-XCB2006031

    Not in the Labour Force - the 2006 Census Numbers

    Highest certificate, diploma or degree Non-Aboriginal
    Canadians
    Aboriginal
    Off-Reserve
    Aboriginal
    On Reserve
    Total 8,213,450 207,115 97,525
    No certificate, diploma or degree 3,285,040 124,230 75,670
    Certificate, diploma or degree 4,928,415 82,880 21,855
    High school certificate or equivalent [5] 1,997,600 37,620 10,900
    Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 740,820 17,025 4,780
    College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma [6] 950,170 18,440 4,195
    University certificate, diploma or degree 1,239,830 9,790 1,980
    University certificate or diploma below bachelor level 327,205 3,875 1,040
    University certificate or degree 912,625 5,905 945
    Bachelor's degree 561,285 3,735 625
    University certificate or diploma above bachelor level 113,110 1,000 170
    Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry 25,865 75 15
    Master's degree 173,890 875 80
    Earned doctorate 38,475 230 50

    The Unemployed - the 2006 Census Numbers

    Highest certificate, diploma or degree Non-Aboriginal
    Canadians
    Aboriginal
    Off-Reserve
    Aboriginal
    On Reserve
    Total 1,048,095 50,490 26,370
    No certificate, diploma or degree 254,230 21,325 14,680
    Certificate, diploma or degree 793,870 29,170 11,685
    High school certificate or equivalent [5] 310,210 12,245 4,550
    Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 115,090 6,390 3,640
    College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma [6] 162,015 7,155 2,425
    University certificate, diploma or degree 206,555 3,375 1,075
    University certificate or diploma below bachelor level 40,340 1,175 630
    University certificate or degree 166,215 2,205 440
    Bachelor's degree 111,735 1,765 320
    University certificate or diploma above bachelor level 15,605 170 70
    Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry 2,920 15 0
    Master's degree 31,060 180 35
    Earned doctorate 4,895 75 10

    The Employed - the 2006 Census Numbers

    Highest certificate, diploma or degree Non-Aboriginal
    Canadians
    Aboriginal
    Off-Reserve
    Aboriginal
    On Reserve
    Total 15,578,785 362,210 80,185
    No certificate, diploma or degree 2,199,285 92,790 31,080
    Certificate, diploma or degree 13,379,500 269,425 49,100
    High school certificate or equivalent [5] 4,066,020 99,350 14,925
    Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 1,835,635 50,735 11,305
    College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma [6] 3,203,275 73,215 14,245
    University certificate, diploma or degree 4,274,570 46,120 8,620
    University certificate or diploma below bachelor level 745,650 12,370 3,860
    University certificate or degree 3,528,915 33,755 4,760
    Bachelor's degree 2,274,180 24,315 3,495
    University certificate or diploma above bachelor level 359,090 3,580 745
    Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry 107,415 520 20
    Master's degree 655,875 4,545 440
    Earned doctorate 132,355 795 55

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