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Canadian Labor Patterns Changing

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 20 June 2000 00:00

Traditionally, Canadians have selected their homes so they will be near work. Now, employment patterns are changing in Canada and around the world so that how and why people chose a home will probably change, too.

In the 1990s, self-employment growth accounted for more than 3 out of 4 new Canadian jobs, according to "One Hundred Years of Labor Force," an article in the latest issue of Statistics Canada's "Canadian Social Trends." By 1997, over 2.5 million Canadians – 16% of the labor force – ran their own businesses and numbers are rising.

Eighty-eight percent of those self-employed were not forced into their own business by unemployment, but made the choice freely. The most common (42%) reason for starting a business? Independence. This reaction is particularly relevant for those at or near retirement who want to take control of their lives. Technology offers more and more people the added freedom of working at a distance from their clients or colleagues and that may further affect future housing choices.

Statistics Canada figures show 45% of the self-employed earned less than $20,000 in 1995, compared with 26% of paid workers. However, many self-employed people have home-based businesses and can make a lower income go further with the related tax advantages and savings created by eliminating commuting, dressing up, buying lunch and other workplace expenses.

On the upside in 1995, 4% of those self-employed earned over $100,000 in contrast to the 1% of paid workers who were in this income range.

Home ownership is well within the reach of many self-employed as the lending climate has also changed. Where once it was difficult for self-employed people to arrange a mortgage, that is not the case today. Mortgage brokers can help those with atypical incomes find the financing they need. Many lenders such as credit unions have more flexible approaches to funding than Canadian banks and even the banks are more interested in dealing with small business these days.

There has also been a positive change in employment levels for workers aged 55 and over. From 1997 to 1999, the number of older workers increased by almost 20 percent. This may be just the beginning of an increasingly important trend since the first of Canada's 9.8 million baby boomers turned 50 in 1997. According to Statistics Canada, "the human capital (the combination of education plus work experience) of older workers outstripped that of younger workers; in other words, the existing workforce had more real and potential value to employers."

Although so many Canadians are opting for early retirement that the average age of retirement has dropped to 62, not everyone will want to or be able to stop working in their sixties. If people continue to earn in their sixties and seventies and perhaps beyond, they will have more dollars available for housing and the supportive services they may need. This increased demand should in turn expand the number and variety of housing options available to people as they age.

Statistics Canada also sees a positive labor picture for areas typically plagued by unemployement. "As for the regional inequalities that have haunted Canada for so long, the ‘information economy,' by rendering geographic location largely irrelevant, may help to ease the historical labor market imbalance between the Atlantic provinces and the rest of the country." Since this region is one of Canada's most beautiful, many Canadians may chose to relocate to these provinces where real estate values have traditionally been more favourable for buyers.

The "transition to a global information economy" predicted by Statistics Canada may also bring buyers from outside the country, particularly as we move to increasingly ‘borderless' connections with the US.

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PJ Wade

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