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Canada's unionization rate declined by 8% from 1981-2012: StatsCan

Rate has remained stable since 1999 at 30% despite changes in the employment mix.


OTTAWA – Between 1981 and 2012, Canada’s unionization rate — defined as the proportion of paid employees who are union members — declined from 38% to 30%, according to Statistics Canada (StatsCan).

Most of the decline, however, took place in the 1980s and the 1990s.

The unionization rate among men declined from 42% to 29% over the period. Men of all ages were affected by the decline, especially those aged 25 to 44.

Among women, the unionization rate remained stable at around 30% over the period. However, this stability masked two offsetting trends: a decline among women aged less than 45, and an increase among those aged 45 to 64.

Unionization rates have long been characterized by regional variations, but declined in all provinces over the period. The largest decline between 1981 and 2012 took place in British Columbia, where the rate fell from 43% to 30%. Manitoba had the smallest decline, going from 38% to 35%.

Between 1981 and 1998, a portion but not the entire decline in unionization rates could be related to employment shifts from highly unionized to lower unionized industries and occupations.

Since 1999, the overall rate remained stable at 30%, despite ongoing changes in the employment mix and changes in the unionization rate within industries. For instance, the rate declined by four percentage points in goods-producing industries, but rose in some services-producing industries.