About one in seven Canadian workers were self-employed in 2018 – accounting for 15% of total employment – according to a new report from Statistics Canada. That’s up from 12% in 1976.
More notably, the number of women entrepreneurs is up dramatically to 38% of all self-employed workers in 2018, from just 26% in 1976.
The government agency describes self-employment as a major aspect of economic activity and an important source of employment growth.
Professional, scientific and technical services have emerged as the industry with the second highest self-employment rate: 32% in 2018, up from 27% in 1987, the year such data first became available. Agriculture remains the industry with the highest (albeit declining) share of self-employment: 57% in 2018, down from 68% in 1987.
Understanding self-employment requires information on why Canadians choose this form of employment. As part of a one-time supplement to the Labour Force Survey of September 2018, respondents who were self-employed in their main job during the 12 months prior to the survey were asked to indicate the main reason for their self-employment.
One-third (33.5%) of self-employed workers reported independence and freedom as the main reason for choosing this form of employment. About 15% reported that they had to be self-employed because of the nature of their job.
Provincially, the proportion of self-employed who reported independence and freedom as reasons for choosing this type of work ranged from 29% in Newfoundland and Labrador to 38% in New Brunswick. On the other hand, self-employed workers in Newfoundland and Labrador were more likely to cite “nature of job – had to be self-employed” as the main reason for their self-employment (23%, compared with a national average of 15%).
Workers in certain occupations—such as physicians, dentists and veterinarians—were more likely to be self-employed due to the nature of their job. Nature of job was also more commonly cited among self-employed workers in occupations as diverse as managers in agriculture and performing artists.
While independence and freedom were the top reason for both men and women in self-employment, women were more likely than men to indicate flexible hours (11% vs. 7%) and work-family balance (15% vs. 5%) as their main reason.