Indigenous Youth - Post-secondary Education and the Labour Market

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Key Findings:

  • While the proportion of Indigenous youth aged 15-29 with some type of post-secondary certification increased between 2006 and 2011 from 19% to 21%, the increase among Non-Indigenous youth was greater during the same period.
  • Compared to the Non-Indigenous population, the Indigenous population had lower attendance rates, especially among younger age groups, suggesting Indigenous people spent less time at school compared to non-Indigenous people.
  • The employment rate for Indigenous youth rose with increased educational certification. For instance, 24% of those with no certification were employed as compared to 56% of those with high school and 76% of those with university certifications.

Introduction

Education is critical for social and economic progress. Higher levels of educational attainment are associated with higher levels of employment and income. It often shapes an individual's occupational and career choices. Employment and income differences between individuals and groups tend to decrease as education increases in the form of a certificate, diploma, or degree.

Because of increasing numbers of Indigenous youth, historic weaknesses in the education of Indigenous children and youth, and the importance of this growing population to the labour force, this summary focuses on Indigenous youth, 15 to 29 years old. This period covers the ages when the majority of youth complete their education and transition to the labour market. The findings summarized here are taken from a larger study of Indigenous post-secondary education and the labour market completed for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

Main Findings

The proportion of Indigenous youth with post-secondary education increased

Between 2006 and 2011 the educational levels of Indigenous youth aged 15-29 increased. For instance, the proportion of Indigenous youth with some type of post-secondary certification increased from 19% to 21%. At the same time, the proportion of Non-Indigenous youth with post-secondary certification showed an increase from 38% to 41% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Proportion of the 15-29 Year Old Population with any Post-Secondary Certification by Identity, Canada, 2006 & 2011
Proportion of the 15-29 Year Old Population with any Post-Secondary Certification by Identity, Canada, 2006 & 2011
Text description of the Proportion of the 15-29 Year Old Population with any Post-Secondary Certification by Identity, Canada, 2006 & 2011

This bar graph compares the proportion of Indigenous youth and non-Indigenous youth in Canada aged 15-29 with any post-secondary certification in 2006 and 2011.

  • The first bar shows that in 2006, 38% of Non-Indigenous youth held some type of post-secondary certification, while the second bar shows that 19% of Indigenous youth held some type of certification that same year.
  • The third bar shows that in 2011, 41% of Non-Indigenous youth held some type of post-secondary certification, while the fourth bar shows that 21% of Indigenous youth held some type of certification that same year.
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2006; National Household Survey, 2011.

Differences among identity groups

There were substantial differences among youth in different Indigenous identity groups with regard to post-secondary certification. While 28% of Métis youth and 24% of Other First Nations (non-status) youth had some type of post-secondary certification, around 17% of Registered Indian youth and around 14% of Inuit youth had post-secondary certification. In comparison, 41% of Non-Indigenous youth had post-secondary certification.

The differences among identity groups were larger for higher levels of certification, especially university certification. While 9% of Métis youth and 7% of Other First Nations (non-status) youth held university certification, only 3% of Registered Indian youth and 2% of Inuk youth had the same level of certification. In comparison, 19% of Non-Indigenous youth had university certification (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Population 15-29 Years Old with Post Secondary Certification by Type and Identity, Canada, 2011
Population 15-29 Years Old with Post Secondary Certification by Type and Identity, Canada, 2011
Text description of the Population 15-29 Years Old with Post Secondary Certification by Type and Identity, Canada, 2011

This stacked bar graph shows the type and proportion of post-secondary certification by Indigenous identity in 2011.

The first bar describes post-secondary certification for Registered Indians, which is distributed as follows:

  • Trades certification: 6%
  • College certification: 7%
  • University certification: 3%
  • Total Post-Secondary certification: 16%

The second bar describes post-secondary certification for Other First Nations, which is distributed as follows:

  • Trades certification: 7%
  • College certification: 10%
  • University certification: 7%
  • Total Post-Secondary certification: 24%

The third bar describes post-secondary certification for the Inuit population, which is distributed as follows:

  • Trades certification: 5%
  • College certification: 6%
  • University certification: 2%
  • Total Post-Secondary certification: 13%

The fourth bar describes post-secondary certification for the Métis population, which is distributed as follows:

  • Trades certification: 7%
  • College certification: 12%
  • University certification: 9%
  • Total Post-Secondary certification: 28%

The fifth bar describes post-secondary certification for Non-Indigenouss, which is distributed as follows:

  • Trades certification: 7%
  • College certification: 15%
  • University certification: 19%
  • Total Post-Secondary certification: 41%
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011

Increasing proportion of Indigenous youth with college and university certification

There was some growth in the percent of Indigenous youth with all types of post-secondary certification including trades or apprenticeship (increase of 0.8%), college (increase of 0.4%) and university (increase of 0.8%). In contrast, among the Non-Indigenous population most of the increase was in university level certification (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Change in the Proportion of the 15-29 Year Old Population with Post-Secondary Certification by Type and Identity, Canada, 2006-2011
Figure 3: Change in the Proportion of the 15-29 Year Old Population with Post-Secondary Certification by Type and Identity, Canada, 2006-2011
Text description of the Change in the Proportion of the 15-29 Year Old Population with Post-Secondary Certification by Type and Identity, Canada, 2006-2011

This bar graph shows the change, from 2006 to 2011, in proportion of Indigenous youth and Non-Indigenous youth with post-secondary certification by type of certification.

  • The first bar indicates that the proportion of Indigenous youth with trades certification increased by 0.8% from 2006 to 2011, and the second bar indicates that the proportion of Non-Indigenous youth with trades certification increased by 0.3% during that same period.
  • The third bar indicates that the proportion of Indigenous youth with college certification increased by 0.4% from 2006 to 2011, and the fourth bar indicates that the proportion of Non-Indigenous youth with college certification was stable, increasing by 0% during that same period.
  • The fifth bar indicates that the proportion of Indigenous youth with university certification increased by 0.8% from 2006 to 2011, and the sixth bar indicates that the proportion of Non-Indigenous youth with university certification increased by 2.8% during that same period.
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

Indigenous attendance rates are low

Compared to the Non-Indigenous population, the Indigenous population had lower attendance rates, especially among younger age groups. Among the 15-19 year old population, for example, Indigenous attendance rates were 10% lower than Non-Indigenous rates. Among the 20-24 year-old population, the difference was 22%. The difference in attendance rates was smaller for the 25-29 year-old population. After the age of 30, Indigenous attendance rates were slightly higher than Non-Indigenous attendance rates. This suggests that, on average, Indigenous people sent less time at school when compared to non-Indigenous people (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Proportion of the Population Attending any Level of School by Identity and Age, Canada, 2010-2011
Figure 4: Proportion of the Population Attending any Level of School by Identity and Age, Canada, 2010-2011
Text description of the Proportion of the Population Attending any Level of School by Identity and Age, Canada, 2010-2011

This bar graph compares the proportion of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous populations attending any level of schooling by age group during 2010 and 2011.

  • The first bar indicates that 75% of Indigenous people aged 15 to 19 attended some level of schooling, while the second bar indicates that 85% of Non-Indigenous people in that age group attended some level of schooling.
  • The third bar indicates that 33% of Indigenous people aged 20 to 24 attended some level of schooling, while the fourth bar indicates that 55% of Non-Indigenous people in that age group attended some level of schooling.
  • The fifth bar indicates that 19% of Indigenous people aged 25 to 29 attended some level of schooling, while the sixth bar indicates that 24% of Non-Indigenous people in that age group attended some level of schooling.
  • The seventh bar indicates that 15% of Indigenous people aged 30 to 34 attended some level of schooling, while the eighth bar indicates that 14% of Non-Indigenous people in that age group attended some level of schooling.
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

Indigenous youth are a growing segment of the labour force

The Indigenous youth labour force in Canada is growing fast. For example, the Registered Indian youth population increased by 14% between 2006 and 2011, while the Non-Indigenous youth population increased by only 4%. In 2011, 4% of labour force participants in Canada were Indigenous. Importantly, there were large variations across the country. For instance, 49% of young labour force participants in the northern Territories region were Indigenous. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan 15% and 13%, respectively, of young labour force participants were Indigenous. (Figure 5)

Indigenous youth were more likely to lack certification

The growing importance of Indigenous youth in the labour market is impacted by the fact that many lack certification.

In the northern Territories region 77% of young labour force participants who lacked certification in 2011 were Indigenous. In Manitoba 25% and in Saskatchewan 22% of young labour force participants lacking certification in 2011 were Indigenous. In Alberta and British Columbia about 12% of young labour force participants lacking certification were Indigenous (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Proportion of Indigenous Labour Force Participants Aged 15-29 Years Old, by Region or Province and Highest Level of Certification, Canada, 2011
Figure 5: Proportion of Indigenous Labour Force Participants Aged 15-29 Years Old, by Region or Province and Highest Level of Certification, Canada, 2011
Text description of the Proportion of Indigenous Labour Force Participants Aged 15-29 Years Old, by Region or Province and Highest Level of Certification, Canada, 2011

This bar graph compares the proportion of Indigenous labour force participants, aged 15 to 19, with and without any type of certification by province in 2011.

  • The first bar indicates that in the Atlantic Provinces, 5% of Indigenous youth held some type of post-secondary certification, while the second bar indicates that 6% of Indigenous youth held no certification.
  • The third bar indicates that in Quebec, 2% held some type of post-secondary certification, while the fourth bar indicates that 4% of Indigenous youth held no certification.
  • The fifth bar indicates that in Ontario, 3% held some type of post-secondary certification, while the sixth bar indicates that 5% of Indigenous youth had no certification.
  • The seventh bar indicates that in Manitoba, 15% held some type of post-secondary certification, while the eighth bar indicates that 25% of Indigenous youth held no certification.
  • The ninth bar indicates that in Saskatchewan, 13% held some type of post-secondary certification, while the tenth bar indicates that 22% of Indigenous youth held no certification.
  • The eleventh bar indicates that in Alberta, 6% held some type of post-secondary certification, while the twelfth indicates that 12% of Indigenous youth held no certification.
  • The thirteenth bar indicates that in British Columbia, 6% held some type of post-secondary certification, while the fourteenth bar indicates that 12% of Indigenous youth held no certification.
  • The fifteenth bar indicates that in the Territories, 49% held some type of post-secondary certification, while the sixteenth bar indicates that 77% of Indigenous youth held no certification.
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

Employment rates of Indigenous youth increased dramatically with certification

The employment rate is the proportion of the population who are employed. The employment rate for Indigenous youth increased as educational certification increased. The employment rate of Indigenous youth with high school certification (56%) was much higher than the employment rate of those without any certification (24%). Indigenous youth employment rates continued to increase with more education, reaching 76% among those with a university degree (Figure 6).

The employment rates of Indigenous youth were generally lower than those of Non-Indigenous youth, but differences in employment rates became smaller as educational levels increased. The employment rates were the same for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous youth holding university degrees.

Figure 6: Employment Rates of the 15-29 Year Old Population by Identity and Highest Level of Certification, Canada, 2011
Figure 6: Employment Rates of the 15-29 Year Old Population by Identity and Highest Level of Certification, Canada, 2011
Text description of the Employment Rates of the 15-29 Year Old Population by Identity and Highest Level of Certification, Canada, 2011

This bar graph shows the employment rates of Indigenous youth aged 15-29 by identity and certification in 2011.

  • The first bar indicates that 33% of Non-Indigenous people without certification were employed, while the second bar indicates that 24% of Indigenous people without any certification were employed.
  • The third bar indicates that 61% of Non-Indigenous people with high school certification were employed, while the fourth bar indicates that 56% of Indigenous people with high school certification were employed.
  • The fifth bar indicates that 80% of Non-Indigenous people with trades certification were employed, while the sixth bar indicates that 68% of Indigenous people with trades certification were employed.
  • The seventh bar indicates that 78% of Non-Indigenous people with college certification were employed, while the eighth bar indicates that 72% of Indigenous people with college certification were employed.
  • The ninth bar indicates that 76% of Non-Indigenous people with university certification were employed, while the tenth bar indicates that 76% of Indigenous people with university certification were also employed.
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

Conclusion

The findings of this study on Indigenous youth and post-secondary education point to the opportunities and challenges in incorporating the young Indigenous population into the Canadian labour force.

On the one hand, Indigenous youths' educational attainment increased between 2006 and 2011. In addition, a higher proportion of Indigenous youth are now completing post-secondary programs. Those Indigenous youth who received post-secondary credentials are having greater labour market success. This population forms a significant source of labour for the Canadian economy, given the growing numbers of Indigenous youth actively participating in the labour market and their increasing educational levels. This is especially so in the western provinces and in northern Canada.

On the other hand, attendance rates and educational attainment levels of Indigenous youth remained well below Canadian averages. While they are participating in the labour market, many Indigenous youth lack the credentials needed to achieve greater success.

About the researcher

This research brief is based on a study completed in 2015 by Jeremy Hull, a Winnipeg-based research consultant. The study was commissioned in recognition of the importance of post-secondary education both to the well-being of Indigenous people and to the health of the Canadian economy. It is the fifth in a series of reports based on the 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006 Censuses and the 2011 National Household Survey. The full report, entitled "Indigenous Post-Secondary Education and Labour Market Outcomes in Canada Based on Data from the 2011 National Household Survey," is available at the Strategic Research Directorate's GCpedia site and through the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada library.

Notes on Methodology

The data used in this summary come from the 2011 National Household Survey and the 2006 Census of Population. Comparisons are made among ‘identity groups' based on self-reported identity and Indian registration status or membership in a First Nation. Identity groups include the Registered Indian, Other First Nations (non-status Indian), Métis, Inuk, and non-Indigenous populations. The 2011 National Household Survey defines post-secondary educational attainment as including three main types of certification: 1) an apprenticeship or trades certificate; 2) a college, CEGEP, or other non-university certificate or diploma; or; 3) a university certificate or degree. Attendance rates are calculated as the number of respondents who reported attending any level of an educational program at any time during the previous year divided by the total population. Finally, the Indigenous population is younger than the non-Indigenous population, which is more evenly distributed across the age ranges defined for youth.

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