Canada has the largest share of post-secondary degree holders in the G7

Canada has the largest share of post-secondary degree holders in the G7

According to the most recent Canadian census, 57.5% of working-aged people (aged 25 – 64) had a post-secondary degree from either college or university. Canada has led the G7 nations in post-secondary degree holders since 2006. This is largely due to the high levels of college diplomas held by the working-age population. Nearly 1 in 4 working-age people held a diploma.

The G7 is a grouping of the world’s advanced economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and the European Union. Canada joined this group in 1976, and since then it has further strengthened its political and economic ties with these countries.

Further, Canada is in a modest 4th place in bachelor’s degree holders (32.9%). But it lags far behind other G7 nations in working-aged persons with graduate degrees.

Immigrants drive growth in education

Immigration to Canada has largely supported this growth. Nearly 6 in 10 immigrants who landed between 2016 and 2021 had bachelor’s degrees or higher. Moreover, nearly half (2.1) of the 4.3 percentage point increase in bachelor’s degree holders can be attributed to immigrants landing in that time period.

“In 2021, immigrants and non-permanent residents accounted for over half of the working-age population with an earned doctorate (55.8%), a master’s degree (52.2%) or a degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry (50.8%), and accounted for 39.1% of those with a bachelor’s degree.”

<<Also Read: Canada remains the fastest growing country in the G7>>

Higher wages but overqualified

Higher-educated recent immigrants (landing between 2016 – 2021) also experienced higher than average hourly wages when compared with immigrants landing between 2011 – 2016. Unfortunately, highly educated immigrants with foreign credentials are more than twice as likely as their Canadian-born counterparts or immigrants with Canadian credentials to be overqualified (i.e. working in a position that requires a high school degree or lower) for their jobs (25.8% versus 10.6% and 11.8% respectively).

This presents an issue for immigrants to Canada because, in 2021, 63.8% of immigrants with a bachelor’s degree or higher completed it outside of Canada. This holds true for immigrants working in high-demand jobs too. The following group only had small percentages of people working in their profession or a close field of study:

  • 36.5% of immigrants with a foreign bachelor’s level or above degree in nursing, and
  • 41.1% of immigrants with foreign medical degrees

This is compared with approximately 9 out of 10 people with Canadian nursing or medical degree credentials working in their fields. If all the immigrants with foreign credentials were to be working in the fields they were educated in, there would be an increase of 27,350 nurses (or closely related professions). Also, there would be 15,730 more doctors of working age across the country.

Protection of education

“It has long held true that people with postsecondary credentials generally have higher employment rates and earnings than those without them, and thus the further one goes in school, the greater one’s economic security.”

The pandemic exposed how some jobs are more protected from adversity than others. Those with bachelor’s degrees or above were more likely to work in “triple-protected” jobs than their lower-educated counterparts. A triple-protected job is one that is permanent (not a contract or casual position). Moreover, it cannot be automated easily, and is more resilient to adverse social conditions like being able to work remotely.

During the pandemic, highly educated working aged people even saw their earnings grow. From 2019 to 2020 (during the pandemic), those with bachelor’s degrees had their average yearly earnings increase by $1,600 to $69,900. In contrast, those with a high school education saw their yearly earning drop by $2,040 to $42,960.

Area in which education did not provide a buffer

The one area in which education didn’t provide a buffer during the pandemic was the skilled trades. This area has either stagnated in their growth or declined due to workers leaving the field quicker than being replaced. One reason for this is because of the high earnings of men with apprenticeship certificates pre-pandemic (nearly $70,000/year). In this case, it wasn’t offset completely by earnings through government programs like CERB. Also, women, who are highly represented in trades like hairdressing and cooking, were in positions that were the first to be shut down during the pandemic. “Over 70% of women with an apprenticeship in hairstyling” received the CERB”.

To learn more about the educational attainments of Canada’s population, read the full report here.

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    Andrea Neira