Unionization in Canada rises to 4.2 million workers

Women experienced disproportionately more gains in unionized jobs.

Ottawa (8 Nov. 2010) - Statistics Canada reports that just over 4.2 million employees belonged to a union in Canada during the first half of 2010, up 64,000 from the same period last year.

Union membership rose at a slightly faster pace than total employment. As a result, the nation's unionization rate edged up from 29.5% in 2009 to 29.6% in 2010.

The average number of paid employees during the first half of 2010 reached 14.3 million, up by 171,000 over the same period last year.

The gap in unionization rates between men and women widened slightly in 2010. Women experienced disproportionately more gains in unionized jobs. Consequently, their unionization rate inched up to 30.9%, while the rate for men remained constant at 28.2%.

Just over 2.2 million women belonged to a union in 2010, compared with just under 2.0 million men.

The unionization rate for permanent employees increased to 30.0% between 2009 and 2010 while it decreased to 27.3% for those in non-permanent jobs. The rate rose in larger firms (100 employees or more), declined among those with 20 to 99 employees and remained constant for firms with fewer than 20 employees.

The provincial picture was mixed. Unionization rates fell in four provinces: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The largest gain in rates occurred in British Columbia while the rate was highest in Newfoundland and Labrador (37.9%).

Among industries, rates were highest in public administration (68.5%) and education (67.0%). Notable declines occurred in agriculture, health care and social assistance and education. Notable increases occurred in transportation and warehousing and public administration.

An average of 288,000 employees were not union members but were covered by a collective agreement in the first half of 2010, down from last year's total of 300,000.

In 2009, there were 157 strikes or lockouts that involved a loss in working time of at least 10 person-days. This was the second lowest number on record. At the same time, 67,000 workers were involved in these strikes or lockouts and just under 2.2 million person-days in working time were lost — the highest number of days lost since 2005.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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