The census shows a high rate of university and undergraduate education among Canadians, but there are complex trends behind it

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The census shows a high rate of university and undergraduate education among Canadians, but there are complex trends behind it STVUKMAXOJPATHSY5BUPL3GICU

Census data shows that nearly a third of working-age Canadians had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2021, an increase of 4.3 percentage points over the 2016 census.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

More than half of Canada’s working-age population has graduated from college or university, the highest proportion in the G7 industrialized countries, according to the latest 2021 census data.

The share of post-secondary graduates in the working-age group (25-64) has now reached 57.5 percent, extending Canada’s lead in a category that it has topped since 2006. That figure is hailed as a positive economic and social indicator, as Studies have shown that higher levels of education tend to be correlated with higher income and better health.

But a more complex picture emerges in the other details revealed in the census tally: men continue to finish college at much lower rates than women, the gap in indigenous college completion rates continues to grow, and Canada lags far behind its peer countries in the proportion of the population that has completed postgraduate studies.

Nearly 33 percent of working-age Canadians had a University bachelor’s degree or higher in 2021. That marked a 4.3 percentage point jump from the 2016 census. About half of that increase was due to immigration, as about 60 percent of new immigrants arrived with a college degree.

Great Britain (41.3 percent), the United States (39.5 percent) and Japan (34.2 percent) have a higher proportion of the population with a college degree. Canada’s improvement was due in part to younger citizens choosing college in greater numbers. But it was also partly a demographic effect, with younger generations entering the 25-64 category, while older ones with less formal education exit.

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Canada’s performance on post-secondary education metrics also owes much to the country’s university sector. A quarter of Canadians (24.6 percent) have a university diploma or certificate, usually from a two-year program. That’s the highest rate in the G7 and compares favorably with the US, where the proportion of the population with an equivalent credential is around 10 percent.

Pamela Best, deputy director of Statistics Canada, said one of the key reasons the country scores so highly on this metric is the CEGEP system in Quebec, which educates a much larger proportion of its student population than other university systems. provincial.

Canada also had a lower proportion of the population with a graduate degree, at just 9.3 percent, compared to a range of 13 to 15 percent elsewhere in the G7. Just over 1 percent of Canadians have a Ph.D. and 8.2 percent have a master’s.

Ken Coates, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s school of public policy, said that historically Canada has not produced as many education graduates as the United States, in part because of the incentives offered in the latter country. He also said there has been a narrower talent pool for graduating science school, but that’s starting to change.

There is also still a significant gap between men and women in educational level. In the 25-34 age group, almost 40 percent of Canadian-born women have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to just over 25 percent of Canadian-born men. The trend dates back more than 30 years, to the early 1990s, when women first surpassed men in titles, according to Statistics Canada.

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The growth rate in college education rates for men picked up substantially in this census period. It grew almost as much in the past five years as it had in the decade from 2006 to 2016. But at 2.2 percentage points, it was still below the 3.3 percentage point growth rate among women.

The data also shows that it is becoming more common for students who have graduated from college to attend college after earning their degree. Colleges offer short career-oriented programs that can add vocational qualifications to a college credential. In Ontario and BC, close to a quarter of college students already had a bachelor’s degree in the 2020-21 school year.

“Society is prioritizing university education over all types of training and education. Many college graduates return to earn a college or polytechnic diploma to become employable. Many should not have gone to university in the first place,” Professor Coates said. “This is becoming a mainstream theme in Canadian post-secondary education.”

The post-college college route is even more common among international students, who pay lower tuition at university (often around $16,000 in Ontario compared to more than $30,000 at university). More than 36 percent of international students at Canadian universities already have a bachelor’s degree. Having a Canadian education and work experience are significant advantages for the growing proportion of international students seeking to stay in the country as permanent residents.

The census showed some progress in indigenous education. In 2021, nearly 13 percent of Indigenous working-age people in Canada had college degrees, up from 10.9 percent in 2016 and 7.7 percent in 2006. The increase is partly due to improvements in high school completion rates among First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

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However, college completion rates among indigenous people are not growing as fast as among non-indigenous people, so the gap continues to widen, Ms. Best said. In the 2021 Census, the number of Canadian-born non-Indigenous graduates grew by 2.9%, compared to 1.9% among Indigenous.