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Full-time work rises for women, declines for men, young people

July 9, 2015

By Tavia Grant, Globe and Mail |

Who’s working full time in Canada? Increasingly, adult women, while the share of men and young people in full-time positions has declined in recent decades.

Across the whole labour force, more workers were employed full time last year, proportionately, than in the mid-1970s, a paper from Statistics Canada says. Two thirds of people were employed full time as either salaried workers or self-employed last year, up from 62 per cent in 1976.

But that shift “was not uniform across gender, age groups and regions,” noted authors René Morissette, Feng Hou and Grant Schellenberg.

Over the past four decades, the share of women employed full time grew to 57 per cent from 40 per cent, while the portion of men in full-time jobs fell to 74 per cent from 84 per cent. (It defines full time as working at least 30 hours a week in a person’s main job).

The drop in full-time employment was “evident among men in every age group,” the study said. Among young men aged 25 to 29, the share tumbled by 10 percentage points while among men aged 30 to 54 the share dropped by 7.5 points.

For men aged 25 to 54 about 40 per cent of the drop in full-time employment was due to shifts into part-time work, and a similar share was because they stopped participating in the labour market. The other factor is due to higher unemployment rates.

Young people – both men and women – are less likely to be working full time. Men and women (aged 17 to 24) saw their rates of full-time employment slide by 18 percentage points and 11 points respectively in the time period. Many of them were instead in part-time positions instead.

The paper also examined whether the shift to part-time work, among men and young people, was voluntary, or due to preference for fewer hours. It found both factors at play – but noted that many people would prefer to be full time.

The evidence “does not support the conjecture that the decline in the full-time employment rates of men and of youth resulted simply from growing preferences for part-time employment,” it said.

Instead, “for these groups, much of the increase in the incidence of part-time employment was generally involuntary, i.e., reflected the willingness to work full time and the inability to find full-time employment.”

A partial explanation for fewer men in full-time jobs is due to worsening labour market outcomes among immigrant men. But that’s not the sole explanation: the study found rates among Canadian-born men have also declined.

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