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Women are increasingly 'their own boss' in Canada. Here's why

According to StatCan data, self-employed women have jobs similar to those held in the late 1980s. (CoWomen) According to StatCan data, self-employed women have jobs similar to those held in the late 1980s. (CoWomen)
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There is a growing number of women in Canada who are self-employed, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

In 2022, women represented 37 per cent of Canadians who were independently operating a business, a professional activity or who were unpaid family workers, a Dec. 4 report from the statistical agency reads.

"Nevertheless, employed women remain less likely than men to be self-employed; in 2022, 11 per cent of employed women were their 'own boss,' compared with 16 per cent of employed men," the report notes.

This data is based on the Labour Force Survey and the census populations, which looked at trends in self-employment, the likelihood of those businesses having employees and how many racialized and Indigenous populations make up the self-employment sector.

According to the data, self-employed women have jobs similar to those held in the late 1980s.

In 2022, three of the five most common occupations for self-employed women were the same as those 30 years ago.

Real estate agents, salespeople and light-duty cleaners are common self-employment jobs for Canadian women.

"These findings suggest that there is not only stability in the type of self-employed jobs held by women but also a continued gender-specific labour market segregation," the report reads.

StatCan also says that women have remained overrepresented in "female-dominated occupations," such as child-care providers.

This is the same for men who were most often in "male-dominated occupations" like home building and renovation managers.

However, the government agency points out there has been a "notable" shift in the number of women who are unpaid family workers.

"In 1976, unpaid family workers accounted for 34 per cent of self-employed women, dropping to around 10 per cent in the late 1980s," the report reads. "In 2022, 1 per cent of self-employed women were unpaid family workers, mirroring the historical lows seen by self-employed men."

WOMEN LESS LIKELY THAN MEN TO…

The data showcases how men and women use their self-employment.

According to StatCan, women are less likely to have paid employees and instead are likely to work by themselves. In 2022, 80 per cent of self-employed women had no employees compared to 68 per cent of self-employed men.

Women's self-employment (34 per cent) was also less likely to be incorporated than men's (54 per cent.)

However, the report notes, there is an increase in incorporated self-employed women over time, especially those without paid employees.

This has grown from three per cent in 1976 to 19 per cent in 2022.

RACIALIZED WOMEN

The data "suggests little difference" between self-employment rates for racialized (10 per cent) and non-racialized women (12 per cent) in Canada.

StatCan did note that trends emerged across groups, however.

Korean women had the highest self-employment, with data showing one in five work for themselves.

Filipino (five per cent) and Black women (six per cent) had "notably" lower self-employment rates.

Between Indigenous (nine per cent) and non-Indigenous women (12 per cent) there were some variations.

The same was noted for self-employment across Indigenous groups.

The self-employment rate among women stood at seven per cent for First Nations people living off reserve, 10 per cent for Métis women and four per cent for Inuit women, the report reads.

AGING WOMEN IN EMPLOYMENT

Self-employment is becoming more common among older women, which StatCan says is "intensifying" historical patterns.

In 2022, two per cent of women aged 15 to 24 years in the labour force were self-employed, down from five per cent in 1976.

For women aged 55 and older, their self-employment rate increased from 14 to 18 per cent during the same period. 

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