The number of Canadians pursuing a higher education is rising, particularly among women, and new data show there's a payoff for that effort because job prospects improve the longer one stays in school.
The second release from the 2011 National Household Survey of Statistics Canada shows dramatic differences in employment rates between those who have post-secondary certificates and those who do not. The higher the education level, the higher the rate of employment.
That speaks well for younger women, who held nearly 60 per cent of the university degrees among people aged 25 to 34. Men held more apprenticeships and trades certificates.
And younger Canadians were far more likely to have college or university degrees than people over the age of 55, which suggests increasing numbers of us are seeing the value in post-secondary education.
But, even as successive governments have tried to push people towards skilled trades and the most recent federal budget was crafted to promote that type of training, Canada remains a nation of sales people and service-industry workers.
More Canadians were working in retail in 2011 than any other sector. That was followed by health-care and social assistance. Manufacturing was third, then education and public administration.
But it is difficult to determine whether there have been significant shifts in the labour population because the survey provides few comparisons with the censuses of previous years.
The data from the voluntary National Household Survey is general regarded by statisticians as being less reliable than that of the mandatory long-form census which it replaced, particularly at the local level. And the survey documents contain caveats warning that the numbers the 2011 data is "subject to potentially higher non-response error."
Still, the survey is expected to provide meaningful information about the broader characteristics of the Canadian population.
What it shows is a labour force that, two years ago, was still very much divided along sexual lines.
Both and men and women were well represented in sales.
But, among women that was followed by the ranks of administrative assistants, nurses, cashiers and teachers while men were truck drivers, janitors and carpenters.
Moves to end the mandatory retirement age also appeared to be having an effect. Among those Canadians over the age of 55, the employment rate was 34.9 per cent, compared to the 32.2 per cent that was recorded in the 2006 census.
Yukon and Alberta had the highest percentage of people over 15 in the workforce while Newfoundland and Nunavut had the lowest.
The survey also took a look at how people get to work – and how long it takes them. And, despite efforts to convince Canadians on the merits of public transit, most of us were behind the wheels of our own vehicles.
Almost four in five commuters drove their car, van or truck to work while just 12 per cent relied on public transportation and only a small proportion walked or cycled.
The information about labour and education was the second release of data from the National Household Survey. The first release in May focused on immigrants, aboriginals and religious affiliation. The third, scheduled for August, will look at income and housing.