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Job for Life? Not Likely

The concept of keeping a job for the better part of your life is as about as quaint and archaic these days as the one of keeping a spouse for a similarly long-termed stretch.

This generation’s labour participants — characterized in turns as either fickle and impatient or gregarious and curious — require the regular injection of stimulation-loaded novelty that comes with a new job. So rather than sign on with a company with the expectation that they’ll remain committed for a drawn-out period, it’s something of an expectation that they’ll be moving on after a reasonable stretch.


In a survey of 4,000 Canadians conducted by Workopolis in 2014, only 6% of respondents had held just one job in their career; 16% said they’d already held “more than 10.”

Another burst of Workopolis research — “Thinkopolis IV: Time to Work” — discovered that:

  • 51% of people now stay in a job for less than two years;
  • 30% of people stay in a job for more than four years.

When it explored the topic with a generational bent (analyzing seven million Canadians’ work histories from its database), it found:

  • Generation X spends over 20% longer in each job than Gen Y does.
  • People who graduated university in 1992 worked an average of 3.2 jobs in the first 12 years of their career, staying approximately 41 months (or 3.4 years) in each job.
  • People who graduated in 2002 held an average of 3.9 jobs over their first 12 years on the job market, with a shorter tenure of 32.5 months (or 2.7 years) in each job.
  • Gen Yers changed jobs 22% more often over a 12-year period than Gen Xers did.

Statistics Canada, meanwhile, reports that two-thirds of Canadian baby boomers entered their fifties employed in jobs they’d had for at least 12 years with the same employer. In fact, more than half had worked for the same organization for 20+ years.

If the current trend continues, says Workopolis, Canadians can expect to hold 15 jobs in their lifetimes.

A University of Guelph-funded study conducted in 2014 — “A Comparative Study of Work Values between Generation X and Generation Y” — found that:

  • The oldest millennials had an average of seven jobs by the time they hit 30;
  • By the time they were 30, Gen Xers had held four jobs.

Reports on this topic by Forbes and recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley declare that the average 35-year-old will change jobs eight to 10 times before she’s 42 and change careers six to eight times before she retires.

And so it goes. The notion of an individual travelling a linear progression through one job for life is a dinosaur, replaced by a workplace defined by unapologetically nomadic participants, cultivating transferable skills that they gleefully apply to a variety of posts.

Canada’s Workforce by the Numbers

A veritable phone book of numbers circulates about Canada’s economy at the best of times, but add the influx of Statistics Canada’s monthly job report, and a person risks getting swamped in the deluge.


Here’s a hit list of the latest for September:

  • The number of working Canadians: 17,978,100 (there were 17,966,000 in August).
  • The number of unemployed souls in Canada: 1,364,500 (there were 1,346,100 in August).
  • Canada’s unemployment rate: 7.1 percent (It was 7.0 percent in August).
  • Canada’s employment rate: 61.2 percent (it was 61.3 percent in August).
  • Canada’s labour force participation rate: 65.9 percent (it was also 65.9 in August).
  • The youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 13.5 percent (it was 13.1 percent in August).
  • The rate of men (aged 25 plus) who were unemployed: 6.4 percent (there were 6.3 percent in August).
  • The rate of women (aged 25 plus) who were unemployed: 5.5 percent (there were 5.4 percent in August).
  • The number of new jobs the economy added: 12,000
  • The number of part-time jobs gained: 74,000.
  • The number of full-time jobs lost: 62,000.
  • The number of jobs lost in the education services sector (the economy’s biggest loser): 51,000 (mostly in Ontario and Quebec).
  • The number of jobs gained in the information, culture and recreation sector (the economy’s biggest winner): 33,000.
  • The increase in the count of self-employed folks: 31,000.
  • The decrease in public-sector jobs: 29,000.
  • The increase in private-sector jobs: 10,000.
  • The number of jobs British Columbia added: 12,000.
  • The number of jobs Alberta added: 12,000.
  • The number of jobs Manitoba added: 4,000.
  • The number of jobs Ontario lost: 34,000.
  • The number of jobs Quebec added: 11,000.
  • The number of jobs added to the Canadian economy in the third quarter: 31,000 (as compared to 33,000 in the second quarter, and 63,000 in the first).