When you think of Canada, what pops into your mind first? Do you think of the iconic maple trees in autumn? Or maybe you imagine glacier blue rivers, framed by the jugged Canadian Rockies? What about the northern lights? A ski holiday at Whistler? The Niagara Falls? Or are you a city person? Do you think about the Toronto skyline that is dominated by the CN Tower or the subterranean city complex in Montreal? Maybe you think of the stereotypical friendly, apologetic Canadian that is polite to a fault?
There are so many attractions in Canada, it is impossible to name them all! But what makes Canada tick? Why is it such a successful country that pulls millions of tourists each year? Surely, for a country to rank 7th on the World Happiness Report, they must have more than beautiful nature going for them! So where does this happiness come from? It comes from a well-developed economy, high employment rates and healthy working environments. If you are interested to go and visit Canada or to go and work there, then you should carry on reading.
The first thing that comes to mind when you talk about work is salary. When someone says to you that he is a happy employee, you immediately wonder what his paycheck is at the end of the month, right? And rightly so. We all have to work for a living, so you might as well earn enough money to stay above the breadline while you are at it! In Canada, it is quite easy to do just that. The average salary in Canada is $29 850 (USD). That’s just below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) average yearly income of $30 563.
Salaries range from $17 000 to $60 000 per annum, depending on the sector you work for and your level of education. High school graduates can find employment in hotels, restaurants, bars and retail stores. Whereas, if you have higher qualifications you can work as a professional in various industries. You can expect to earn around the low end of the salary range if you work in the hotel and food industries, i.e. if you are a waitron or form part of a housecleaning team in a hotel. Retail related jobs will put you slightly higher on the income list, with earnings between $20 000 and $30 000 per annum.
Canada is at the forefront of technological advancement and as such there are a lot of high-end jobs for professionals such as engineers and Information Technology specialists. Experienced scientists, IT specialists, project managers and financial services providers can easily earn top of the range salaries. Whereas medical professionals such as doctors and registered nurses will earn midrange salaries, along with teachers and experienced personal support workers. All of us have heard of doctors and nurses, but what is a personal support worker? For those of you that didn’t know (like me), personal support workers provide support to elderly people and those people that can’t fend for themselves. In underdeveloped countries, these kinds of workers do not earn a large salary as a rule, but in Canada, you can make a good living out of it!
Salaries vary across Canada. The province with the highest average level of income per year is Alberta, where you can expect to earn around $40 000. Whereas you can expect to be paid a whole lot less if you find yourself working on the Prince Edward Isles or Nova Scotia, where the average income is around $20 000 per year.
What are working conditions like in Canada?
Now that you know more or less what the average incomes are of the different working classes, let’s take a closer look at the working conditions in Canada. Is it a slave-driven economy where people work from dawn till dusk to get the job done, or is it a bit more laid back and relaxed? Almost 90% of Canadian workers have a 40 hour or less working week. Compared to the USA, that is fairly laid back because recent polls show that roughly one-third of the US workforce work longer hours than the expected nine to five-hour day.
Canadian employees get a lot of benefits. If you are a permanent resident in Canada, you get free healthcare and your children can go to school for free. Only if they intend to study further than high school will you have to start paying for their education. Non-permanent residents still get highly subsidized healthcare.
The Employment Equity act of 1986 ensures that women, disabled people and visible minorities also stand a chance to get a proper job, so the Canadian workforce is diverse and multicultural. Under this act, women that recently gave birth can go on paid maternity leave for up to 12 months without having to fear to lose their jobs. So clearly the Canadian government supports growing your family!
Weather-wise, it can sometimes be difficult to work in Canada. Because the country is so far north, the weather patterns vary greatly from summer to winter. In the summer, it can be light outside for up to 16 hours, whereas in the winter you will most likely go to work in the dark and come home in the dark as well with only around seven and a half hours of daylight. Heavy snow in winter can also hamper your attempt to get to work, but luckily the Canadian public transport system is well geared to deal with those kinds of situations. In most of the large cities the metro systems are underground and in some of those cities, even your place of work can be underground, with the classic example of Montreal. In summer, travelling to and from work is a breeze!
Is it easy to find a job in Canada?
Interestingly, it is easier to find a job if you do not have a bachelor’s degree. That being said, the unemployment rate in Canada is extremely low. Some sources claim that its unemployment is at 6%, but according to the OECD, 73% of eligible workers have a job, which means that the unemployment rate is around 27%. That is still a very high level of employment when you compare it to developing countries.
Roughly 300 000 foreigners find a job in Canada each year, so if you feel like it, you should apply! The Canadian Express Entry system allows foreigners to apply to become part of the skilled worker’s pool. Depending on the level of qualification that you have and the experience that you’ve built up in your area of expertise, you get a different ranking on the system. Although being part of the pool does not guarantee to attain a job, your chances are more realistic than you might think.