The number of minimum wage workers has doubled over 20 years

The data shows that the proportion of workers making minimum wage grew from 5.2 percent to 10.4 percent in just two decades.

Dylan Gibbons Montreal QC

New data from Statistics Canada shows that the number of workers working minimum wage jobs doubled between 1998-2018, with a dramatic increase in minimum wage workers in urban centers in Ontario, Alberta, and B.C.

The data shows that the proportion of workers making minimum wage grew from 5.2 percent to 10.4 percent in just two decades. However, the most significant increase in workers earning minimum wage took place during 2017 and 2018, leading up to and following the new minimum wage increase.

According to StatsCan, the number of minimum wage workers in Canada increased by a whopping 617,500 people, a 60.7 percent increasing. Ontario lead this trend. 77.8 percent of these new minimum wage workers were in Ontario, 10.1 percent were in Quebec, 7.0 percent were in Alberta, and 5.6 percent were in B.C.

The study also notes that there has been a near reversal in the proportion of minimum wage work found in rural and urban areas. In 1998, there was a higher percentage of rural employees earning minimum wage, but now the opposite is true.

Furthermore, there more people working minimum wage who have a postsecondary diploma or above, suggesting the value of having a College or University degree has dropped. As StatsCan reports, “A little less than one in four minimum wage employees had a postsecondary diploma or above in 1998 and that proportion grew to a little more than one in three minimum wage workers by 2018.”

The largest sectors paying workers minimum wage has been retail trade since 2000, but before it was accommodation and food services. Before 2000, 28.2 percent of minimum wage workers were in accommodation and food services, while 26.8 percent were in retail trade. However, by 2018, 32.7 percent (nearly a third) of all minimum wage earners were found in retail, while 26.0 percent worked in accommodation and food services.

Firm size also matters. Large firms appear to be leading the charge of providing minimum wage to their employees. Currently, 45.8 percent of minimum wage earners are employed by large firms, with 9.4 percent of their staff employed in 2018 working for minimum wage.

Finally, the study found that average minimum wage in Canada increased at a faster pace than the average wage for all employees. According to StatsCan, over 20 years, the average wage grew by 2.7 percent annually while the average minimum wage increased by 3.5 percent annually.


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