State of the Unions: Canadian Unions are Mostly a Public Sector Phenomena

Blog, Public Sector, Frontier Centre


  • Union membership continues to decline in Canada.
  • Canada is twice as unionized as the United States, even though union membership has declined almost 10% since 1981.
  • 30.8% of the workforce was unionized in 2010, falling 2% since 2000.
  • Almost all of the decrease in density occurred in the private sector.
  • Union density actually grew in Manitoba and Saskatchewan between 2000 and 2010.
  • In 2010, Manitoba had the 3rd-highest union density anywhere in Canada.


  • Across Canada, unionization rates are four times higher in the public sector than in the private sector. This imbalance is especially clear in provinces larger public sectors, such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • In 2011, 70.9% of public sector workers were union members, compared to only 16.1% in the private sector.
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan have two of the highest rates of public sector employment in Canada and some of the highest unionization rates.
  • Alberta has the lowest rate of unionization anywhere in Canada at 25%, mostly in the public sector.


Sources: Statistics Canada, “Perspectives on Labour and Income” 2010, 75-001-X and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, “Unionization Rates” 2011


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