Non-wage benefits account for more than one-third of labour costs: Statistics Canada

Employees in large companies, unions more likely to have coverage while hospitality workers and the self-employed lag behind

The cost of non-wage benefits has increased steadily over the past half-century and now accounts for more than one-third of total labour costs, according to Statistics Canada. But not everybody is on even footing as workers in some industries, and the self-employed, have little or no coverage.

According to the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, high-wage earners are six times more likely to have non-wage benefits than low earners. High levels of education and work experience also play a significant role.

The survey found 46 per cent of Canada’s 13.7 million employees in 2000 belonged to a registered pension plan. Only two per cent reported having an employer-sponsored group RRSP to which the employer contributed.

About half of all employees had all three types of employer-sponsored insurance: extended medical; dental; and life and disability. One-third had access to at least one type of personal or family support program.

Who has benefits?

Jobs that are high-wage, unionized, full-time, permanent or in large firms were more likely to offer all types of non-wage benefits to employees.

Workers with higher education levels and more work experience were more likely to be in these high-wage, high-benefit jobs, according to Statistics Canada.

Who doesn’t?

The survey found certain groups were “doubly disadvantaged” with less access to non-wage benefits on top of lower hourly wages.

These groups include employees with less than high school education and those in part-time, temporary or non-unionized jobs.


The median hourly wage in public administration was $20.20. About 69 per cent of the employees in this sector had insurance coverage and 82 per cent were covered by an RRSP.

In contrast, the one million workers in the food and accommodation services industry had median hourly earnings of $7.60. The survey found 13 per cent of these employees had insurance coverage and 10 per cent had pension coverage.

Other industries with insurance and pension plan coverage rates at least 10 percentage points below the average were wholesale and retail trade, construction and primary industries such as fishing, forestry, agriculture and mining.

How self-employed Canadians are faring

Nearly 41 per cent of the 2.1 million self-employed Canadians had no coverage in any of the three health-related insurance plans. Most cited cost as the main reason for having no coverage.

About 17 per cent, mostly well-educated and with $60,000 or more in income, had coverage in all three plans.

The survey found that a large proportion of the self-employed workforce acquire coverage in health and dental by “piggybacking” on the employer-sponsored plan of a spouse or close relative.

Among the self-employed, seven out of 10 in the accommodation and food-service industry had no coverage, likely because they could not afford it, according to Statistics Canada.

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