Electrical Business

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Skilled trades continue to pay more


November 27, 2008
By Anthony Capkun

More than one million people worked in skilled trades in 2007, reports StatsCan, where employment growth has been a steady 2.2% a year on average since the recession of the early 1990s. This group includes trades where a licence or certificate may be a condition of employment.

In
1987, Alberta accounted for 9% of all trades employment; by 2007, this
proportion had increased to 15%. During the same period, the proportion
for British Columbia rose from 11% to 15%.




In
contrast, Ontario accounted for 36% of trades employment in 2007, down
from 41% in 1987, primarily because of slower employment growth.




Average
hourly earnings in 2007 were higher in the trades ($22.36) than in
other occupations ($21.02) combined, reflecting—in part—the
predominance of full-time jobs and the relatively high rate of
unionization in the skilled trades. The highest earners were
electricians, crane operators and plumbers.




Between
1997 and 2007, employees in the trades saw a 3.5% increase in their
average constant dollar hourly earnings, half the 7.4% increase for
those outside the trades.




Self-employment
is a growing phenomenon among tradespeople. In 1987, 9% of those
employed in the trades were self-employed; by 2007, this had increased
to 15%. Some trades experienced even higher growth rates, although
their self-employment rates had not caught up to the non-trades.




The
aging of the population has led to general concerns about the
replacement of retiring workers. The ratio of entrants (age 25 to 34)
to near-retirees (50 or older) addresses the issue of demographic
balance, and shows that the skilled trades had a higher ratio in 2007
than those in other occupations combined (1.0 versus 0.7). This ratio
varied among the trades, though, with some having a higher ratio of
younger workers (plumbers and masons at about 1.5).




Overall,
17% of workers in the trades were immigrants, lower than the 21% in the
non-trades occupations combined. None of the trades had a higher
proportion of immigrants than the non-trades. In 2007, 10% of plumbers
were immigrants, the lowest proportion.