Students at work : Evolution in Quebec and Canada

Today’s students have a job more often than their elders from the 1980s. And this is even more true for young women.  This is what has emerged from a recent study from the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

As will be seen, these data confirm those from Statistics Canada for the entire country.

“Whether during the months while studying or during the summer period, work is now an essential dimension for understanding student living conditions”, writes Marc-André Gauthier, an analyst at the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

Today‘s students work more during their studies than their elders from the 1980s. Among them, those from 20 to 24 years of age represent 3% of Quebec workers, compared to 1% in 1981. Among 15 to 19 year olds, “the representativeness of this group in all Quebec workers increased from 3 to 4%”, says the researcher. Yet the demographic weight of these young people (15 to 24 years old) dropped from 24% over this same period.

Students are most likely to get a summer job in Quebec (even if the Quebec student population found the search more difficult): in July and August 2016, there were nearly 323,000 working (almost one in two students). Among students aged 15 to 24, the employment rate raises to 61% (returning students and other students), which is the highest rate in Canada, after Prince Edward Island, and just before the Maritimes and British Columbia.

% of full-time students aged 15 to 24 with a summer job (July 2017) by province (Statistics Canada – Labour Force Survey (LFS) CANSIM 282-0006

Returning students
Other students*
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick
British Columbia
*People who were attending school full-time in March but who were not planning on returning full-time in the fall or who were unsure if they would return.


For over twenty years now, the rate of employment of women students has been higher than that of their male colleagues. And the trend is growing. The gap was close to 3% from 1992 to 1999 and widened to 7 points from 2000 to 2011. “The 2008 crisis also seems to have affected female students less than male students, according to the analysis, the former experiencing a decline of a little more than two points in the rate of employment compared to about five points for male students.”

The net result is that in 2011 the rate of employment of female students from 20 to 24 years of age (58%) exceeded that of all women (56%). In addition, during the school months, young women are 40% more likely than male students to have a job.


Summer jobs were rarer during the 2008 crisis. In this period the rate of employment among students from 20 to 24 years old declined by about 8 points.

Similarly to what happens during the school year, young female students get a summer job more often than their male peers. Some economists hypothesize that the relative success of female students compared to their male counterparts is related to the growth of economic sectors that traditionally hire women: retail sales, accommodation and restaurant services, which have grown since the 1990s.

More than a young in ten works in the catering, hospitality and tourism field, or in healthcare and social assistance.

Employment by industry, 15 to 29 years, 2015 (Statistics Canada, Institut de la statistique du Québec)

Trade: 23,2 %
Accommodation and food services: 12,6%
Health care and social assistance: 11,5 %
Manufacturing: 8,7%
Professional, scientific and technical services: 6,4 %
Information, culture and recreation: 6,2 %
Construction: 6,1 %
Educational services: 5,3 %
Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing: 4,1 %
Business, building and other support services: 3,8 pour cent
Other services: 3,8 %
Public administration: 3,7 %
Transportation and warehousing: 2,6 pour cent



Although Quebec students are employed more often than their Canadian counterparts, it remains true that the Canadian trend also reflects the Quebec reality.

“Over the last 35 years”, observes economist Katherine Marshall of Statistics Canada, “the rate of employment of full-time post-secondary students rose from one in four to just little less than one in two. On the other hand, the employment rate among the same group has remained stable.”

The greatest participation of women students in the labour market has also been seen across the country, since the beginning of the 1990s. The number of hours, meanwhile, increased throughout the 1990s to reach 16 hours by the end of the decade. It has held steady at this level since. Men work between 1.5 and 2.5 hours more than women.

Immigrant students are less often able to find a job than their colleagues born in Canada . Male immigrants experience this difficulty more often than their female colleagues.

Students from big cities work more than those from small towns (47% vs. 39%).

“Although the proportion of students living at home (at least 30 days per year) varies considerably due to age, 85% of them from 15 to 19 years old, compared to 61% of those from 20 to 24 years old, do not display any notable difference in employment rate based on age and place of residence”, emphasized Katherine Marshall.

The number of hours worked weekly varies little, regardless of the category studied. “There is a difference of less than two hours for all students in all categories combined”, notes the Statistics Canada economist. “(…) Less than one student in five works more than twenty hours per week.”

More than 95% of students who work have a job in the services sector, compared to 78% for non-students.

As a conclusion, Canada has the lowest unemployment rate (11.7%) for youth aged 15 to 24  (students and non students) since September 2008. On a year-over-year basis, youth employment was virtually unchanged.

Sources : Marc-André Gauthier, Le travail rémunéré chez les étudiants québécois : portrait de trente années d’évolution [Paid work among Quebec students: portrait of thirty years of evolution], Institut de la statistique du Québec, February 2013-03-05

Katherine Marshall, Profil d’emploi des étudiants postsecondaires [Employment profile of post-secondary students], Statistique Canada, septembre 2010.

Labour Force Survey, April 2017 – Statistics Canada network