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Earnings and Incomes of Canadians Over the Past Quarter Century, 2006 Census : Highlights

All dollar figures are expressed in 2005 constant dollars, i.e., in terms of their value, or purchasing power, in 2005.

Family earnings
Incomes of families


1980 to 2005

  • Median earnings of Canadians employed on a full-time basis for a full year changed little during the past quarter century, edging up from $41,348 in 1980 to $41,401 in 2005 (in 2005 constant dollars).
  • Earnings of full-time full year earners rose for those at the top of the earnings distribution, stagnated for those in the middle and declined for those at the bottom.
  • The more rapid growth at the top of the earnings distribution has led to an increase in the proportion of high earners over the past quarter century. In 1980, 3.4% of full-time full-year earners received $100,000 or more. By 2005, this proportion had almost doubled to 6.5%. Likewise, about 2.2% of full-time full-year earners received $150,000 or more in 2005, up from 1.0% in 1980.
  • The majority of these high earners were highly educated. Even though they represented no more than a quarter of full-time full-year earners, individuals with a university degree accounted for 57.0% of those who received at least $100,000 in 2005, and 65.3% of those who earned at least $150,000.
  • Median earnings of full-time full year earners evolved differently across provinces and territories during the past 25 years. Between 1980 and 2005, median earnings of individuals working full time on a full year basis fell 11.3% in British Columbia. In contrast, they grew 8.1% in Ontario, 5.4% in Prince-Edward-Island and 19.4% in the Northwest Territories.
  • After narrowing steadily during the past two decades, the ratio in earnings between men and women aged 25 to 29 remained unchanged between 2000 and 2005. In 2005, young women entering the labour market and employed on a full-time full-year basis earned 85 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. In 1980, this ratio was 75 cents.
  • During the past quarter century, the earnings gap between recent immigrant workers and Canadian-born workers widened significantly. In 1980, recent immigrant men who had some employment income earned 85 cents for each dollar received by Canadian-born men. By 2005, the ratio had dropped to 63 cents. The corresponding numbers for recent immigrant women were 85 cents and 56 cents, respectively.
  • Earnings disparities between recent immigrant workers and Canadian-born workers increased not only during the two previous decades, but also between 2000 and 2005.
  • The decline in employment in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector between 2000 and 2005 had a large impact on the earnings of recent immigrants. The reason is that a disproportionately high share of them were trained in computer sciences and engineering.

2000 to 2005

  • Following a slight decline between 1980 and 2000, median earnings of Canadians employed on a full-time basis for a full year grew a moderate 2.4% between 2000 and 2005, rising from $40,443 in 2000 to $41,401 in 2005.
  • Quebec and British Columbia were the only two provinces to record a decline between 2000 and 2005. Median earnings in Quebec fell by 0.3%. In British Columbia—a province that experienced higher-than-average employment growth—median earnings for individuals fell 3.4%, to $42,230.
  • Between 2000 and 2005, individual earnings increased substantially in some occupations, such as those in oil and gas and other resources in the wake of the natural resource boom in western Canada. In contrast, blue-collar workers in manufacturing and clerical workers experienced slower growth.
  • While workers with a university degree generally earn more than their less educated counterparts, census data showed that for men and women of most ages, median earnings grew, if at all, at a very similar pace in both groups between 2000 and 2005.

Family earnings

  • Between 2000 and 2005, median earnings of economic families in which at least one partner, or the parent, was aged between 15 and 64 and worked in 2005 increased 0.6%, to $63,715. This follows two decades of modest increases. Between 1980 and 2000, median family earnings increased 8.6%.
  • Median earnings growth between 2000 and 2005 varied by family type. Working couples with children had the highest median earnings of all family types in 2005, an estimated $75,997, up 4.2% from 2000.
  • For lone-parent families headed by women, median earnings rose 4.9%, to $30,598. Their male counterparts had median earnings of $47,943, a gain of only 1.8% from 2000.

Incomes of families

  • Between 2000 and 2005, the median income of all economic families of two or more people increased 3.7%, to $66,343. Over the longer term, from 1980 to 2005, median family income rose 11.1%. In 1980, median family income in 2005 constant dollars stood at $59,709.
  • Among the provinces, income rose fastest among economic families in Alberta (+10.0%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (+7.1%) between 2000 and 2005. Economic families in Alberta also had the highest median incomes provincially, $76,526, followed by their counterparts in Ontario, at $72,734.
  • In 2005, the median income of people living on their own, that is, people who are not part of an economic family, amounted to $24,808, up 6.3% from 2000 and 13.3% from 1980 in 2005 constant dollars.
  • The median income for lone-parent mothers in 2005 amounted to $36,765, still the lowest of all the major economic family types. However, this was 26.4% higher than it was in 1980. In contrast, the median income for lone-parent fathers declined 4.1% during this 25-year period, to $51,974 in 2005, narrowing the gap with their female counterparts.
  • The median income of senior couples without children reached $45,674 in 2005, up 55.8% from 1980. Over the same period, the median income of senior women living on their own increased by 46.0%, to $19,923, while that of senior men rose 63.6%, to $23,886.
  • The share of family income accounted for by government transfers was lower in 2005 than in 2000. The decline can be attributed to two factors. First, for seniors, rising private retirement income led to a drop in means-tested benefits from Old Age Security Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement. Second, these other government transfers also declined due to better labour market conditions that lifted many families above the threshold for programs.
  • Between 2000 and 2005, the proportion of family income that came from government transfer payments declined slightly in all provinces and territories, except Quebec, Ontario and the Yukon Territory, where it edged up.
  • Over the past 25 years, retirement income – from private pensions, for example – has grown faster than any other income source for seniors, rising from less than 15.0% of their income in 1980 to over 30.0% in 2005.
  • With large long-term declines in their earnings, recent immigrants are receiving a larger proportion of their income from government transfers than in the past. However, per capita transfers are similar to or lower than those for comparable Canadian-born individuals and families.
  • New census data on after-tax income better depict what families have available to spend. The median after-tax income of all economic families in 2005 was $57,178, compared with before-tax income of $66,343. After-tax income is also more equally distributed than before‑tax income since those with higher incomes pay taxes at a higher rate.
  • During the past 25 years, the before-tax low income rate for children changed very little. In 2005, 19.3% of pre-schoolers and 17.0% of school-age children lived in low income families, compared to 20.0% and 18.7%, respectively, in 1980. Over the same period, however, the before-tax low income rate for seniors aged 65 and over declined substantially, from 29.9% to 14.4%.

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