Unemployment gap between English and French speakers in Quebec doubled: new census data

By The Canadian Press

The Provincial Employment Roundtable (PERT) has just published a report examining the state of employment for Quebec’s English-speaking communities. The report draws on new 2021 census data and shows that English speakers across most regions of Quebec experience higher unemployment rates, lower median incomes, and higher rates of poverty compared to the French-speaking majority, despite high rates of labour force participation and high educational attainment.

More specifically, PERT’s research reveals an unemployment rate for English speakers at 10.9 per cent, compared to 6.9 per cent for French speakers. This 4 per cent unemployment gap is double the 2 per cent unemployment gap found in PERT’s prior analysis of 2016 census data.

The income disparity between English and French speakers is also growing. PERT’s report demonstrates that English speakers earn $5,200 less than French speakers in terms of median employment income and this gap has doubled since the previous census. In addition to lower incomes, English speakers also experience higher rates of poverty compared to their French counterparts. The report shows that the provincial poverty rate for English speakers is 10.

“The findings in this report are shocking,” said Nicholas Salter, Executive Director at the Provincial Employment Roundtable (PERT). “The situation has gotten worse since the last census and the economic vitality of the English-speaking community in Quebec is in decline at a much faster rate than we could have anticipated.”

Facing an ongoing labour shortage, Quebec’s economic growth will be impacted by the ability of governments and employers to effectively develop their workforce. This report sheds light on the urgent need for targeted initiatives to address the employment challenges being faced by the English-speaking community and move Quebec’s economy forward.

“The worsening unemployment and income trends we are seeing are not new, however, our approaches to addressing them must be. The situation calls for immediate attention and targeted investments to unlock the potential of English-speaking Quebecers in Quebec’s labour market,” concludes Salter.

Key findings:

  • The unemployment rate for English speakers in Quebec has increased. English speakers face an unemployment rate of 10.9 per cent, 4 per cent higher than French speakers’ 6.9 per cent. This difference has doubled since the 2016 Census when the gap was 2 per cent.
  • English speakers continue to earn lower incomes compared to French speakers across the province: English speakers have an after-tax median income that is $2,800 lower than French speakers and a median employment income that is $5,200 less than French speakers. The gap in median employment income between English and French speakers has widened significantly; English speakers have a median employment income that is $5,200 less than French speakers, previously $2,648.
  • The provincial poverty rate for English speakers is 10.
  • Quebec’s English-speaking population has increased since the last census. There are now 1,253,578 individuals who identify as English speakers, representing 14.9 per cent of Quebec’s population (previously 13.8 per cent in the last census).
  • English speakers continue to have high educational attainment levels, and the level of educational attainment among English speakers has increased. As of 2021, approximately 86% of the English-speaking population in Quebec have at least a secondary-level education compared to 81.6% for French speakers.
  • There are 699,015 English speakers in Quebec’s labour force. English speakers now make up 15.8. English speakers also have a higher labour force participation rate.
  • English speakers face other challenges in the labour market: they are more likely to work a temporary position, work fewer average weeks, and are more likely to work part-time compared to French speakers. These are all lead indicators for labour market precarity.
  • Regional disparities within the English-speaking community persist – English speakers in the regions of Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Cote-Nord, and Nord-du-Quebec continue to have the highest unemployment rates and lowest incomes within the English-speaking community. However, the unemployment rates for English speakers living in northern resource-based economies have generally decreased since the last census.


The Provincial Employment Roundtable (PERT) is a non-profit multi-stakeholder initiative focused on addressing the employment and employability challenges facing Quebec’s English-speaking community. For more information about the Provincial Employment Roundtable (PERT): pertquebec.ca

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