While conducting some research for last week’s news story on Alberta’s employment climate, I came across a dataset at Statistics Canada on jobs since 2001. What specifically stuck out to me was that the jobs were delineated by union and non-union jobs.
So, I thought I’d do a data dive.
First, here’s how the union–non-union jobs break down in Canada for July 2020. FYI, union here means not only workers who are members of a union but also those who aren’t but are covered by a collective agreement.
Probably not a surprise to anyone, but union jobs are in the minority in Canada, falling somewhere between 1 in 3 jobs and 1 in 4 jobs. The vast majority are non-unionized jobs.
Next, I extracted all the data for union and non-union jobs every July since 2001, and I plotted it onto this graph.
And, well, union jobs not only have made up a smaller portion of total jobs than non-union jobs over the last 20 years, but that portion has been steadily shrinking.
We’ve gone from union jobs making up 31.20% of all the Canadian jobs in 2001 to making up only 29.2% in 2019. And it’s not just a blip. Clearly, that decrease is part of a 20-year trend.
But I was curious if I could find older data. And I did, but it added only an extra 4 years.
Unfortunately, the extra 4 years doesn’t create any better of a picture. It still shows a downward trend, with an even higher starting point: 32.93%. Round that up, and it’s pretty much that 1 in 3 jobs in Canada in 1997 was a union job.
Then I found another source with data going back to 1981. The data isn’t annual, however; yet it does show that the declining trend has been occurring for longer than since 1997. Unionization rates, according to this source, were 37.6% in 1981, 36% in 1986, and 35.9% in 1998.
Over the last 4 decades, unionization has gone from 37.6% of the workforce to 29.2% of the workforce.
Now that we know that the percentage of union jobs keeps going down, how does the actual number of unionized jobs compare against the actual number of non-unionized jobs?
In both of these charts, we can see that the number of unionized jobs has increased, but nowhere close to as much as the increase seen by non-unionized jobs.
In 1997, there were 3,852,500 union jobs and 7,846,000 non-unionized jobs. In 2020, there were 4,690,700 and 11,380,700 respectively. So, union jobs increased by 838,200 over a 24-year period, while non-unionized jobs increased by over 3.5 million.
In other words, union jobs have increased by 22% since 1997, and non-unionized jobs have increased by 45%. Non-unionized jobs have increased at twice the rate that unionized jobs have.
On average, unionized jobs have increased by 34,930 every year since 1997. Non-unionized jobs have increased an average of 147,280 per year. That’s more than 4 times the annual rate of unionized job growth.
And if workers want higher wages and better jobs security, that trend must change.