Chapter 1. Indigenous labour market outcomes in Canada

Disparities in labour force outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous People can be addressed through more active labour market programmes, which involve a range of economic development actors. This chapter overviews key employment trends within the Indigenous population in Canada. It then outlines innovations of Indigenous organisations that are actively managing and delivering employment programmes, which seek to provide meaningful job opportunities to their Indigenous communities.

    

Recent population and labour market trends

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established in 2008 in response to the systemic harm that the Residential School system inflicted on Indigenous People. In 2015, the TRC released its final report. In order to redress the legacy of Residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the report included 94 Calls to Action. These Calls to Action urged all levels of government, federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous, to work together to change policies and programmes in order to repair the harm caused by Residential Schools and advance forward with reconciliation. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015).

One of the Calls to Action states that, “we call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015). The TRC observed that disparities in education and skills were closely tied with employment outcomes. While the government has made strides in prioritizing the rights and lives of Indigenous People, inequalities still remain and require multi-faceted policies to improve success (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015).

The 2016 Census of Population and the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) in Canada provide the most current and accurate portraits of the demographic and socio-economic conditions of Indigenous People in Canada. This report looks to the NHS, the Census, and other sources to ascertain how Indigenous People in Canada are currently fairing in the labour market. Indigenous outcomes are improving along several economic, social, and labour market indicators (Statistics Canada, 2017e).

Demographics and population trends

In 2011, First Nation People, Métis, and Inuit Indigenous groups comprised 4.3% of Canada’s population (Statistics Canada, 2016a). Therefore, more than 1.4 million Canadians self-identified as Indigenous in the 2011 NHS (Statistics Canada, 2016a).

However, this number has grown considerably; between 2011 and 2016, Canada’s total population grew by 4.9%, amounting to 34 460 065 people within the entire Canadian population as recorded by the 2016 Census. Simultaneously, the Indigenous population in Canada increased by 18%, with Statistics Canada documenting 1 673 780 Indigenous People within the 2016 Census (Statistics Canada, 2017a).

While the fertility rate of the entire Canadian population in 2011 was 1.6 children per woman (close to the OECD average of 1.7 children per woman), the Indigenous population in Canada had a fertility rate of 2.2 children per woman (Arriagada, 2016). In turn, the Indigenous population in Canada is growing at a far quicker pace than the rest of the Canadian population. This trend has been observed historically as well as there was a 20.1% increase in the fertility rate of the Indigenous population from 2006 to 2011, compared to a 5.2% increase in the non-Indigenous population (Statistics Canada, 2016a).

Composing 4.9% of the total Canadian population in 2016, Indigenous People have experienced significant growth in the population within the past decade (42.5%) and an 18.9% growth rate in the past five years (Statistics Canada, 2017d). Furthermore, Canada’s Indigenous population is very young in comparison with age distributions of non-Indigenous Canadians. Nearly half (46.2%) of the Indigenous population in 2011 was 24 years old or less compared to only 29.5% of the non-Indigenous population (Statistics Canada, 2011c; Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 2013). In 2016, the average age of an Indigenous person (32.1 years old) was nearly a decade younger than the average age of a non-Indigenous person (40 years) (Statistics Canada, 2017d).

Previous work by the OECD highlights how an estimated 350 000 Indigenous youth will turn 15 years old between 2016-26, which provides an unprecedented opportunity to leverage investments in job and skills training and employment readiness for Indigenous youth in order to fill crucial labour shortages in Canada (OECD, 2016).

Figure 1.1. Age Distribution for Canadian Indigenous and non-Indigenous Populations, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2017), Aboriginal identity population by age and sex, Catalogue no. 98-402-X2016009,

National Household Survey 2016, available at http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/hlt-fst/abo-aut/index-eng.cfm.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723739

Geographic residency of Indigenous People

Figure 1.2 shows geographic locations of Indigenous People across Canada’s provinces and territories in 2016. Data from the 2006 Census to the 2016 Census illustrates trends in Indigenous People migrating from rural to urban settings. During that time, the population of Indigenous People living in metropolitan areas increased by 59.7%. Therefore, more than half (51.8%) of the Indigenous Population live in metropolitan centres in Canada as of 2016 (Statistics Canada, 2017).

In 2016, the province with the highest number of Indigenous People was Ontario (374 395 people), which was a 54.1 percentage change over the past five years. With one-fifth of the total Métis population, Ontario had the largest Métis population in Canada (120 585) in 2016. This was a 64.3% from the population in 2006 (Statistics Canada, 2017).

In comparison, over the past decade, there was a 75.1% growth from in the population of First Nations which did not have registered or treaty Indian status (232 375 people) and a 30.8% growth in First Nations who have registered or treaty Indian status (744 855 people). First Nations with registered or treaty Indian status therefore accounted for 76.2% of the First Nations population (Statistics Canada, 2017).

Figure 1.2. Percentage of Indigenous populations per Canadian province, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2017), Aboriginal identity population by both sexes, total - age, 2016 counts, Canada, provinces and territories, 2016 Census – 25% Sample data, Aboriginal Peoples Highlight Tables, 2016 Census, http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/hlt-fst/abo-aut/Table.cfm?Lang=Eng&T=101&D1=1&D2=1&D3=1&RPP=25&PR=0&SR=1&S=102&O=D (accessed on 25 January 2018).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723758

Indigenous identity

The data which refers to the Indigenous population in this report only includes the population which selected to be recognised as having an “Aboriginal Identity” in the Canadian Census. Because Indigenous history, culture and identity are complex concepts, the census also asks whether the respondent has “Aboriginal Heritage”. Compared to the 1.7 million people who reported “Aboriginal Identities” in 2011, 2.1 million Canadians recorded an Aboriginal ancestry in the 2016 Census (Statistics Canada, 2016a). This means that about 400 000 respondents are decedents of Aboriginal ancestors, but did not identify on the census as Indigenous. Canada allows citizens to self-identify as Indigenous since the identity of Indigenous People are nuanced in every form—both individually and collectively. By giving Canadians the autonomy to choose if they identify as Indigenous, the government recognises that each individual has the legitimacy to determine their own identity (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 2013). While the government enables individuals to self-identify as Indigenous, this is different than Indian Status, which is determined under the Indian Act. Under the Indian Act, Status Indians, also known as registered Indians, may be eligible for a range of benefits, rights, programmes and services offered by the federal and provincial or territorial governments.

It is also important to note that the Canadian constitution recognises three groups of Indigenous People: Indians (commonly referred to as First Nation), Inuit and Métis. Within the Census, Indigenous People are distinguished as Registered Indian, Métis, Non-Status Indian, Inuit and other Aboriginal (respondents who identify with more than one Indigenous group or as a Band member with no Aboriginal identity and no Registered Indian Status) (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 2013).

Measuring labour market outcomes

In 2016, Canada’s total population observed a 7% unemployment rate with 7.7% of men and 6.2% of women unemployed. This number has steadily decreased since its highest point in the past decade—a rate of 8.4% unemployment in 2009. As of December 2017, unemployment continued its downward trend sitting at 5.9%—the lowest rate since February 2008 (Statistics Canada, 2016g; OECD, 2017a; OECD, 2017b).

Despite these favourable labour market conditions, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians do not share the same labour market outcomes and the differences between the two groups are striking along many indicators. While in general, Indigenous Canadians have fallen behind in labour market performance, some indicators show varying outcomes across regions.

In Figure 1.3, data from the 2016 Census shows that on average across Canada, non-Indigenous People have higher labour market participation rates1 than Indigenous People. The gaps between outcomes of the two groups are particularly wide in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba with differences of 29.3%, 20.7%, 13.2% and 10.5% respectively (Statistics Canada, 2016f).

Figure 1.3. Gaps in Participation Rate Percentages
Canadian Provinces and Territories, Indigenous Status, Ages 15 years and older, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2016) Census of Population. Canada and census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, 2016 Census – 25% Sample data, data extracted by Employment and Skills Development Canada, received 11 April 2018.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723777

Labour market outcomes across provinces

In regards to employment rates2, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Yukon have the greatest gaps in performances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups with differences of 43.8%, 29%, 19.9% and 18.1%, respectively. These trends are illustrated in Figure 1.4, showing that Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have the smallest outcome gaps. However, they are also among the provinces and territories with the lowest employment rates (Statistics Canada, 2016f).

Figure 1.5 illustrates unemployment rate gaps across all Canadian provinces for 2016. The unemployment rate was particularly high for the Indigenous population in the territories and Atlantic region. The differences in unemployment rate percentages between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups are highest in Nunavut (24.6%), Yukon (16.3%), and Northwest Territories (14.5%) (Statistics Canada, 2016f).

Figure 1.4. Gaps in Employment Rate Percentages
Canadian Provinces, Indigenous Status, Ages 15 years and older, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2016), Census of Population. Canada and census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, 2016 Census – 25% Sample data, data extracted by Employment and Skills Development Canada, received 11 April 2018.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723796

Figure 1.5. Gaps in Unemployment Rate Percentages
Canadian Provinces, Indigenous Status, Ages 15 years and older, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2016), Census of Population. Canada and census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, 2016 Census – 25% Sample data, data extracted by Employment and Skills Development Canada, received 11 April 2018.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723815

Trends in labour market indicators across Indigenous groups

Similar to geographic trends, labour market outcomes can vary between Indigenous groups. Figure 1.6 illustrates how different Indigenous groups performed in the 2016 Census regarding employment rates and the percent of the population outside of the labour force. As expected, each indicator has an inverse relationship. Also, each group performs consistently. However, the amount of each population employed is quite low and the percent of the population not in the labour force is rather high (especially for the groups with the worst outcomes in each indicator). Finally, of the Indigenous groups, the outcomes of the Métis are closest to those of Non-Indigenous People. This is considerably higher than First Nations and Inuit populations (Statistics Canada, 2016f).

Figure 1.6. Labour Market Outcomes by Indigenous Group
Canada, Ages 15 years and older, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2016), Census of Population. Canada and census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, 2016 Census – 25% Sample data, data extracted by Employment and Skills Development Canada, received 11 April 2018.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723834

Trends in Indigenous status and gender outcomes over the last decade3

In the past decade, Indigenous groups have almost always experienced worse outcomes within participation rates, employment rates and unemployment rates than their non-Indigenous counterparts. However, Indigenous females had consistently observed the lowest outcomes when looking at the labour market participation rate and employment rate. Within unemployment rates, Indigenous men consistently had the worst performance.

Indigenous women’s outcomes tend to be slightly improving while Indigenous men’s outcomes are slowly worsening. Also, note that the global financial crisis of 2008 shook labour market outcomes in 2009 and 2010. But what is most striking is that non-Indigenous were far less effected by the crisis. The outcomes of Indigenous People can partially be explained by their younger age, since youth are more at risk to unemployment (especially during downturns). Additionally, Indigenous People are underrepresented in knowledge industries and overrepresented in industries that were more affected by the financial crisis, like construction (see Figure 1.12).

Figure 1.7. Trends in Gender within Participation Rate Percentages for the Years 2007-2016
Canada, Indigenous Status, Sex, Ages 15-64
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Note: Excluded from the survey's coverage are persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces as well as those living in the territories.

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 282-0226- Labour force survey estimates (LFS), by Aboriginal group, sex and age group, Canada, selected provinces and regions, annual (persons), CANSIM (database), (accessed on 3 July 2017).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723853

Figure 1.8. Trends in Gender within Employment Rate Percentages for the Years 2007-2016
Canada, Indigenous Status, Sex, Ages 15-64
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Note: Excluded from the survey's coverage are persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces as well as those living in the territories.

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 282-0226- Labour force survey estimates (LFS), by Aboriginal group, sex and age group, Canada, selected provinces and regions, annual (persons), CANSIM (database), (accessed on 3 July 2017).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723872

Figure 1.9. Trends in Gender within Unemployment Rate Percentages for the Years 2007-2016
Canada, Indigenous Status, Sex, Ages 15-64
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Note: Excluded from the survey's coverage are persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces as well as those living in the territories.

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 282-0226- Labour force survey estimates (LFS), by Aboriginal group, sex and age group, Canada, selected provinces and regions, annual (persons), CANSIM (database), (accessed on 3 July 2017).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723891

Wage, industry and occupation gaps

While barriers to employment for Indigenous People still need to be reduced, those who participate in the labour force have consistently experienced disparities in wages and income. Figure 1.10 illustrates trends in wages over the past decade. This demonstrates that the gap in earnings has consistently not improved, with an average of about CAD 2.5 difference per hour between the two groups’ wages over the past decade. That amounts to about 11% of the average hourly earnings of the Indigenous population (Statistics Canada, 2017j).

This gap in wages is closely related to the industries and types of occupations where Indigenous People are employed. Indigenous People are underrepresented in knowledge industries and knowledge education, and in contrast, are most prevalently found in industries and occupations which require lower levels of educational attainment.

Figure 1.11 illustrates the distribution of Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations by industry across Canada (Statistics Canada, 2011b). In comparison to multifactor and labour productivity in the aggregate business sector and major sub-sectors, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), the industries were Indigenous workers are most prevalent (healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, public administration and construction) are also some of the industries with the lowest levels of labour and multifactor productivity (Statistics Canada, 2017f).

Along with trends seen within knowledge-based industry, Indigenous People are also less commonly found knowledge worker occupations. This is closely connected to disparities in educational outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Figure 1.12 shows that Indigenous workers are found more prevalently in occupations requiring lower educational attainment in comparison to non-Indigenous workers (Statistics Canada, 2011b).

Figure 1.10. Average hourly wages for Indigenous and non-Indigenous identity populations, constant prices, Canada and selected provinces, 2007-2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2017). Table 282-0233 - Labour force survey estimates (LFS), average hourly and weekly wages and average usual weekly hours by Aboriginal group and age group, Canada, selected provinces and regions, 2007-2016.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723910

Figure 1.11. Employment distribution of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous identity populations by industry, 15 and older, %, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2016), 2016 Census, Catalogue no. 98-400-X2016359.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723929

Figure 1.12. Employment distribution of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous identity populations by occupation, 15 and older, %, 2016
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Source : Statistics Canada (2016), 2016 Census, Catalogue no. 98-400-X2016357.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723948

What are the barriers to employment for Indigenous People?

Educational attainment

Educational attainment and employment rates are positively correlated—therefore the people with the lowest levels of educational attainment will also experience the lowest levels of employment rates. More information on skills related outcomes on Indigenous People can be found in the next chapter of this report. When looking at employment rates by different levels of educational attainment, the data shows that even when Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups have the same level of education, they still do not experience the same employment rate success, making the barrier of educational attainment all the more important to address. Issues related to educational attainment and skills are analysed in more detail within Chapter 5.

Figure 1.13. Employment rate of population aged 25 to 64, by highest level of educational attainment, Indigenous identity, Canada, 2016
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Source: Statistics Canada (2016), Census of Population, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-400-X2016265.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723967

The 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) asked unemployed Indigenous People what they found was the most prevalent reason(s) for not obtaining work. The survey compared the responses of those who did not obtain a high school diploma and those who did. A lack of education or training was the highest reported reason for Indigenous People without high school diplomas in all Indigenous groups except for Inuit People, who reported a shortage of work as the highest reason. The gaps between those with and without high school diplomas were highest for this reason as well (Statistics Canada, 2015).

Socio-economic Status (SES)

Figure 1.14 illustrates the disproportionate representation of Indigenous People in lower income groups in 2016. In comparison, non-Indigenous People are proportionately disbursed in all income deciles, with an average of 10% of non-Indigenous People in each decile (Statistics Canada, 2016e). Additionally, according to Statistics Canada a prevalence of low income was found within 23% of the Indigenous population compared to 13.8% of the non-Indigenous population in 2016 (Statistics Canada, 2016e).

Figure 1.14. Percentage of Indigenous People in each income decile group (after-tax), 2016
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Note: The 10th decile is the top decile.

Source: Statistics Canada (2016), Census, Catalogue no. 98-400-X2016174.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933723986

Disproportionate levels of incarceration and policing

Indigenous People are incarcerated at a disproportionate rate in comparison to the general population. Considering the projected growth rate of the Indigenous population in Canada, this means that there could be growing numbers of Indigenous People re-entering society with a criminal record, which places pressure on inclusive growth and social cohesion if they are not able to find a job (Statistics Canada, 2015). In this context, it would be important to consider ways to support this particular group of individuals.

Figure 1.15. Indigenous and non-Indigenous adult correctional services, custodial admissions to provincial and territorial programmes by Indigenous identity, annual (number), 2000-2016
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Note: In the Northwest Territories, other custodial status admissions data as of 2007/2008 are not available.

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 251-0022 - Adult correctional services, custodial admissions to provincial and territorial programs by Aboriginal identity, annual (number), CANSIM (database) (accessed: 3 July 2017).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933724005

Federal policies and programmes supporting Indigenous employment outcomes

In his speech at the 9th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, TRC Chair the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair emphasised that Residential Schools in Canada lasted over 150 years, with the last school closing in 1996, equating to about seven generations of school attendance. He recognized while healing will take time, the Canadian government cannot delay its efforts to start achieving reconciliation. Urged by the TRC’s Call to Actions, the Canadian government has sought to prioritise Indigenous rights and illuminate the importance of acting now (Sinclair, 2016). At the federal level, a number of programmes and policies have been introduced to aid the reconciliation process and are creating successful narratives for Indigenous People, often managed and delivered by Indigenous communities themselves.

From a labour market perspective, the key actor is Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). As a federal body, ESDC strives to foster a dynamic, skilled and diverse workforce. This is manifested through its work on employment and skills policies. ESDC also provides skills training programmes to encourage inclusive workforce participation and lifelong learning.

At the federal level, another key partner implementing policies and programmes benefiting Indigenous People is Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). In August 2017, the dissolution of INAC was announced which has resulted in the creation of two new departments: Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. INAC acts as the federal department for the management of economic development policies for Indigenous People. The management of economic development policies is composed of the following policy and programme areas: Indigenous Entrepreneurship, Community Economic Development, Strategic Partnerships, Infrastructure and Capacity, and Urban Indigenous Participation.

Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Strategy

The Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ISETS) 4, established in 2010 by Employment and Social Development Canada, includes funding of 292 million CAD annually and 10 year funding agreements. ISETS is a broad-based, foundational labour market programme that provides a full suite of skills development and job training, from the acquisition of essential skills, such as literacy and numeracy, to more advanced training for in-demand jobs. Built on a succession of programmes since 1991, ISETS includes the three strategic pillars of demand-driven training, partnerships and accountability for results (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2017).

ISETS supports a network of 85 Indigenous service delivery organisations that design and deliver employment programmes and services for Indigenous People with over 600 points of service across Canada. All Indigenous People, regardless of status or location, may access its programmes and services. ISETS interventions include: job-finding skills and training, wage subsidies to encourage employers to hire Indigenous workers, financial subsidies to help individuals access employment or obtain skills for employment, entrepreneurial skills development, supports to help with returning to school, and child care for parents in training (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2017).

An additional CAD 50 million was allocated to ISETS in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 through a combination of new funding and reallocated resources. This funding was used to support communities at risk and literacy and essential skills, fund 15 pilot projects to better align training with community needs in the areas of housing construction, water treatment, child care and local administration as well as strengthen capacity across the network of service providers to meet the growing demand from Indigenous People for skills development and job training.

In preparation for programme renewal, the Government proposed through Budget 2016, to consult with Indigenous partners to inform the future of Indigenous labour market programming. The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour (EWDL) and Senior Officials undertook extensive engagement with National Indigenous Organisations; Indigenous leadership; ISETS agreement holders; provinces and territories; industry; and academic institutions, to gather their views on the strengthens and weaknesses of the current programming, to ensure future Indigenous labour market programming meets the needs of Indigenous People.

In addition, Indigenous partners were encouraged to submit completed discussion guides or comments along with any other relevant material or resources to ESDC to help inform the future of Indigenous labour market programming.

Since 2011-2012, over 367,000 Indigenous People have participated in the ISETS program, of which over 121,000 individuals have become employed, and over 59,000 have returned to school. Furthermore, since 2011-2012, more than 13 000 Indigenous People have participated in wage subsidy programs and approximately 3,200 people have accessed childcare through the ISETS. Approximately 1,700 ISETS clients have participated in one or more self-employment interventions and have become self-employed following their participation.

The federal government’s Budget 2018 announced new investments of CAD 2 billion over five years, and CAD 408.2 million per year ongoing, to support the Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Programme,. This includes incremental investments of CAD 447 million over five years, and CAD 99.4 million per year ongoing, designed as 10 year funding agreements and a stronger focus on training for higher-quality, better-paying jobs rather than rapid re-employment. Recognising the importance of a distinctions-based approach, the programme will support the creation of four labour market streams for First Nations, Inuit, Metis and urban/non-affiliated Indigenous People. The Department is planning a distinctions-based engagement with Indigenous partners to co-develop the implementation of the new ISET Programme features in 2018-19.

Accountability provisions

The objective of ISET is to increase Indigenous participation in the Canadian labour market, ensuring that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people are engaged in sustainable, meaningful employment. The objective supports the Government of Canada’s overarching goals of promoting skills development, labour market participation and inclusiveness and ensuring labour market efficiency.

Currently, the agreement holders under ISET would receive a five-year commitment to undertake programming. Progress toward the goals and objectives of the initiative is measured through direct, intermediate and ultimate outcomes as established in the Performance Measurement Strategy. Examples of the key performance measurement indicators include:

  • Number of clients served by type of intervention;

  • Number of clients who successfully complete interventions as planned;

  • Number of clients who returned to school following completion of intervention(s), and

  • Number of clients employed following completion of intervention(s).

The Strategic Partnerships Initiative

Established in 2010, the Strategic Partnerships Initiative (SPI) continues to be innovative in addressing Indigenous economic development through its governance, decision making process and investments. As part of INAC’s Lands and Economic Development (LED) Sector’s vision to restore Indigenous People land base, control and access their lands and resources, freely pursue wealth creation and share fully in Canada’s prosperity, SPI is a key cross-governmental horizontal mechanism to increase Indigenous participation in complex multi-year economic opportunities. SPI coordinates the efforts and investments of multiple federal partners, which includes a focus on supporting Indigenous community economic readiness and participation in complex economic opportunities across Canada. The role of economic development and job creation are among LED and SPI’s goals, which includes closing the socio-economic gaps, greater self-determination and improved relations.

The SPI, as a horizontal mechanism, coordinates multiple federal department investments focused on Indigenous economic development as well as streamline administrative processes to ensure a whole of government and one-window approach. The SPI recipients include other levels of government, tribal councils, self-governing First Nations, Indigenous communities, businesses, partnerships and joint ventures.

For instance, in the Ontario’s Ring of Fire region, SPI is supporting the Community Wellbeing Pilot Project with Neskantaga, Webequie, and Marten Falls First Nations in partnership with the Matawa Tribal Council, provincial ministries and federal departments. Using a holistic, place-based approach to community development, the project is challenging governments to go beyond their role as funders and become developmental partners in addressing community-identified needs and priorities. To date, significant progress is being made in the areas of housing, skills and training, financial management and governance, and mental health and additions. Addressing these core social challenges ensures that communities are better able to prepare for and benefit from mineral and economic development opportunities in their traditional territories.

Indigenous policies and programmes within provinces and territories

Provinces and territories in Canada also play a critical role in working with Indigenous communities to reduce inequalities. In most cases, each province and territory has a dedicated Minister responsible for improving the economic and social outcomes of Indigenous People. Furthermore, in many cases, provinces would allocate additional funding to Indigenous programmes.

Through federally-funded labour market transfer agreements, provinces and territories design and deliver their own suite of labour market and skills programmes for unemployed and underemployed Canadians, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous people (OECD, 2014). While not specific to Indigenous People, they would still access services through these programmes depending on eligibility criteria established by the province.

The largest labour market transfer agreements are the Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) which provide unemployed Canadians, mainly eligible under Employment Insurance, with skills training and employment supports to help them find and maintain employment. Measures available include skills training, wage subsidies, self-employment supports, and work experience opportunities. LMDAs also provide employment assistance services (e.g. job search assistance, employment counselling) for all unemployed Canadians. Under Budget 2017, the Government expanded the LMDAs and broadened eligibility for programs and services to help more Canadians, including under-represented groups, access EI-funded skills training and employment supports. Additional flexibility was also introduced to expand employment assistance services to employed workers and to support employer-sponsored training.

In addition to the LMDAs, the federal government’s Budget 2017 announced the creation of new Workforce Development Agreements (WDAs), which consolidate the existing Canada Job Fund Agreements, the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities and the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers, making transfers to the provinces and territories simpler and more flexible to ensure programming meets local labour market needs. Under the WDAs, provinces and territories provide skills training and employment supports to non-EI eligible, unemployed, or underemployed Canadians, including those further removed from the labour market, and employers.

Inter-governmental bodies for policy co-operation and coordination

Forum of Labour Market Ministers

The Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM) was created in 1983 to promote discussion and co-operation on labour market matters. The forum is composed of federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) government departments that work collaboratively to address common labour market goals and issues in Canada. It informs FPT programmes and policies, as well as numerous stakeholders. As the climate of the Canadian labour market continually shifts, the Forum addresses both persistent and emerging labour market issues.

The FLMM is co-chaired by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour at the ESDC and a lead province. The Forum’s governance model includes Ministers’, Deputy Ministers’, and Senior Officials’ tables, as well as working groups for ongoing business. The Forum’s Secretariat, hosted by the provincial/territorial Co-Chair, supports the Forum and coordinates activities to advance the common priorities set by FPT ministers responsible for labour market issues. It is a neutral body that is responsible for facilitating provincial/territorial collaboration and consensus, and ensuring a coherent vision that is fully representative of all governments. Five overarching objectives for the FLMM include:

  • Ensuring the next generation of Labour Market Transfer Agreements (LMTAs) are client-centred, outcomes focused, inclusive flexible and responsive, and evidence-based to meet the needs of Canadian workers and employers;

  • Optimising the integration of internationally-trained workers and the mobility of certified workers and apprentices to meet industry and labour market needs;

  • Promoting demand-led training, as well as employer involvement to respond to labour market demands and support increased productivity;

  • Strengthening strategic planning capacity to better respond to Canada’s changing labour market needs through engaging partners, knowledge development and the effective use of labour market information, and

  • Promoting sharing of best practices to advance labour market issues and support efforts to increase labour market policy and programming innovation in Canada.

New FPT Working Groups have been created to implement the Strategic Plan, Chaired by both a representative from the federal government and a province, or territory, each has developed annual work plans. The current working groups are: LMTAs & Performance Measurement Working Group; Labour Market Information Council Implementation Support Committee; Strategic Foresight and Engagement Working Group; Innovation and Best Practices Working Group; and Mobility and Qualification Recognition Working Group. The Strategic Foresight and Engagement Working Group is the Forum’s focal point for collaboration and engagement with key partners and stakeholders such as Indigenous organisations, employers and labour market experts.

Labour Market Management Committees

The Labour Market Management Committees (LMMC’s) governance structure supports bilateral strategic discussions on labour market issues and priorities between ESDC and provinces/territories. The LMMC’s governance structure was established to oversee the implementation and management of LMTAs between the federal government and provinces/territories. These bilateral meetings provide a forum for strategic discussions of labour market issues and priorities, support the federal government and provincial/territorial governments in fulfilling their respective obligations under the agreements, and foster coordinated and integrated approaches to support policy and programme effectiveness as well as administrative and operational efficiencies.

The federal government is looking to leverage existing intergovernmental fora on labour market issues, including the Forum of Labour Market Ministers and the Labour Market Management Committees, to continue working with provinces and territories to ensure greater program complementarities including identifying approach for increased coordination of Federal-Provincial-Territorial and Indigenous skills development and labour market programming. The federal government is also working with provinces and territories to increase Indigenous engagement with these fora to better respond to Indigenous labour market needs.

Understanding how employment programmes are implemented at the local level through case study analysis

This study analysed a number of local case studies to understand the implementation of the federal government’s active labour market programming and its impact on Indigenous People. This report focuses on local activities in the following case study areas – all four of whom are agreement holders under ISET: Community Futures Treaty Seven (CFT7); the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources and Development (CAHRD); Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment & Training Services (KKETS); and MAWIW Council.

Community Futures Treaty Seven

In the province of Alberta, Community Futures Treaty Seven (CFT7) supports all First Nation Individuals to obtain and maintain meaningful employment based on community needs through the provision of employment services in the Treaty Seven Territory. CFT7 provides employment related programmes and services in the following areas: General Labour Market; Youth Labour Market; Persons with Disabilities; and Child Care. CFT7 serves all Treaty Seven members or First Nations members with status at its 7 on-reserve employment centres and all urban Indigenous People who reside in the cities and surrounding area of one of its 4 urban centres located in Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat.

Community Futures Treaty Seven also offers youth employment programmes (which fall under the federal government’s Youth Programming) designed to ensure the economic prosperity of First Nations Treaty Status youth between the ages of 15-30. One such programme includes the First Nations Summer Career Placement Program which provides summer students with summer employment opportunities that try to develop skills that will stimulate valuable work experience for transitioning into the Alberta Labour Market. CFT7 targets placements that provide meaningful, career related work experience for post-secondary and secondary students with plans of returning to school upon completion of the summer placement.

The Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources Development (CAHRD)

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD) offers comprehensive services to Indigenous job-seekers that can lead directly to employment through job preparation (e.g. interview skills, résumé workshops, job referrals) or by creating a strategy for employment through further education and training (Shead, 2011).

CAHRD is a one-stop client service centre where a number of Indigenous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) now provide health, employment, literacy, education, training, and other support services to Winnipeg’s Indigenous community. Their work and services focus on, and are coordinated to meet, the needs of Indigenous People as they adapt to the challenges of life in the more complex society of a modern urban setting.

CAHRD has three employment departments: Central Employment Services, Staffing Solutions and Aboriginal People with Disabilities Program. Employment Counsellors from each department meet with clients to discuss employment options, and help determine the best plan of action suitable to a person’s needs, whether it be additional skills upgrading, or referral directly into a training programme (see Box 1.1).

Box 1.1. CAHRD’s Central Employment Services

Central Employment Services help clients by creating an action plan to successfully attain career goals. Employment Counsellors offer career exploration options, referrals to employment, education and training, and job search strategies. This is achieved through:

  • One-on-one counselling services: an Employment Counsellor will conduct an individual personal assessment to identify a client’s marketable skills. They will assist in overcoming any barriers that may limit a client’s employment opportunities and discuss an action plan for successfully attaining their personal career goals.

  • Referrals to academic upgrading or post-secondary training: Employment Counsellors are available to discuss a client’s options, and help determine the best plan of action suitable to their needs, including additional upgrading and referral directly into a training programme.

  • Free services: CAHRD continues to offer step-by-step supports as clients identify, achieve and ultimately succeed with their goals.

  • Career exploration, training options, job search strategies and referrals, workshops and a computer resource centre (computer lab, skills testing, faxing, printing, photocopying & voicemail) are available to clients free of charge.

The Central Employment Services, Staffing Solutions offers assistance to recent Indigenous graduates to find meaningful employment in their occupation of choice. Employment Counsellors will work one-on-one with clients to develop a customised plan and provide individual assistance to ensure their skills meet the demands of the workforce. In addition, they create partnerships with private and public sectors to establish employment opportunities for clients. Services include: One-on-one employment counselling; Short and long term goal setting; computer lab with internet access; connecting people with job leads and referrals; and job search workshops which cover résumé, cover letter, interview skills and mock interviews.

In addition, CAHRD also provides literacy through Neeginan Learning and Literacy and adult education through Aboriginal Community Campus for Indigenous adults. Technical and trades training is provided through its post-secondary training arm Neeginan Technical College (where programmes are developed and run based on the skill sets needed by the employer). All of CAHRD’s services are coordinated around the needs of the Indigenous participants: from needing a referral to social services for survival money to being prepared to be successful in an interview for a job that pays CAD 26 per hour.

Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment & Training Services (KKETS)

In Thunder Bay, Ontario, Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment & Training Services (KKETS) is an agreement holder under ISET as well as the Skills and Partnerships Fund. Matawa First Nations is a Tribal Council providing services and programmes to eight Ojibway and Cree First Nations (Aroland, Constance Lake, Eabametoong, Ginoogaming, Marten Falls, Neskantaga, Nibinamik, and Webequie) in James Bay Treaty No. 9 and one First Nation (Long Lake #58) in the Robinson-Superior Treaty area. KKETS works with Employment Community Coordinators (ECC) in each First Nation community they represent to provide training programmes and to create employment opportunities for education, training and, employment for community members (KKETS, 2017).

Along with that, KKETS also works in partnerships with several organisations to deliver quality services and programmes to Matawa First Nations communities in Thunder Bay, including North Superior Workforce Planning Board (NSWPB), Confederation College, and Noront.

During the case study interviews, KKETS identifies remoteness, lack of programmes, funding and infrastructure, such as access to internet and roads, as the key economic development challenges facing their Indigenous communities. Many Matawa First Nations communities are small, rural, and some are even remote, which makes it difficult to have an ongoing and steady economy. Limited employment opportunities, and often, limited transportation to and from other communities, add additional barriers.

The Employment Integration Services Program (EISP) works with Matawa community members to remove barriers and obstacles to attaining employment. The programme helps participants by supplying a number of services, including resume writing, job search strategies, employment readiness assessments, work ethics training, and orientation sessions. In addition to assisting community members, the programme also provides cultural sensitivity awareness to employers through education and access to Elder supports, guiding and mentoring. Apart from those, KKETS also works externally with key organisations in delivering programmes and services that help build community capacity and increase community members’ participation in the labour market workforce (KKETS, 2017).

As an example of a partnership with the Northern Policy Institute (NPI), NSWPB has developed the Baakaakonanen Ishkwandemonun (BI) - Opening Doors for You initiative, to acknowledge employers with inclusive hiring practices (see Box 1.2).

Box 1.2. Building local partnerships to find employment: Baakaakonanen Ishkwandemonun (BI)- Opening Doors for You initiative

Employers and service providers who assist job seekers in finding employment, get access to existing supports to hire from growing labour pools of newcomers and Indigenous People. As a result of the BI programme, Driving into the Future (DITF), emerged as a collaborative project between KKETS and NSWPB. In their regular interactions with KKETS staff Indigenous youth routinely identified not having a driver’s license as a huge barrier to gaining employment outside of their communities, especially in large urban centres. This project funded 30 Indigenous youth from five fly-in or winter access road only communities to get their G1 licence. Out of the 30 students, 29 were successful in obtaining their G1 license. This programme sheds a light on this economic development issue many Matawa First Nation communities are facing, as youths from remote communities are unable to attain basic skills that are required to secure good employment.

MAWIW Council

MAWIW Council represents three First Nations’ communities in New Brunswick: Esgenoôpetitj, Elsipogtog and Tobique First Nations. Through integrated partnerships, MAWIW works with organisations and government agencies to improve employment, economic development, health, and education service delivery.

Isolation, limited mobility, language and discrimination are major labour market challenges facing MAWIW First Nations’ communities. All three MAWIW communities are situated in rural locations. From a geographic perspective, small isolated communities face additional barriers as they lack access to key resources typically found in an urban centre.

Even when community members have adequate employment skills, they face hardships in securing employment within or around their communities. The first issue is lack of employment opportunities available. However, given jobs are available in the nearest cities, members often hesitate to take them because it requires them moving away from their communities.

Those who wish to commute to work outside of the community also face challenges, as many communities are not serviced by public transit. Lack of driver’s licences is an issue in rural communities as many cannot travel to the nearest office to take the test or they do not have access to training providers or vehicles to practice driving. To add, owning a vehicle is often out of reach for those who are in pre-employment stages. Thus, transportation creates a significant barrier for accessing training and employment opportunities.

Two additional central challenges are language and discrimination. New Brunswick is a bilingual province, which divides First Nations’ people and creates linguistic enclaves. Bilingualism creates hurdles for MAWIW community members as it limits their employment opportunities, especially when securing full-time government jobs. Along with language barriers, Indigenous People also face discrimination when applying for jobs. Many organisations do not practice inclusive hiring practices; therefore many Indigenous People tend to face entrenched institutional racism in the labour market.

To overcome these challenges MAWIW works closely with their three communities in delivering several programmes such as the General Education development (GED) programme and the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP). Although ASEP expired in 2012, the success of the initiative contributed to the ISET programme which operates in every MAWIW community (see Box 1.3). The MAWIW ASEP project supported a broad scale partnership that allowed the MAWIW to work within their communities and build partnerships with industry in order to enable Indigenous People to access employment. This created a strong foundation for the partnerships that have been established within their communities to date.

Every MAWIW community also has an employment and training officer (ETO), who works with community members to develop employment goals and training plans. The ETO’s then refer clients to the appropriate training provider or assist them in finding suitable employment. However economic development challenges limit job prospects in First Nations communities.

Box 1.3. Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) in Fredericton, New Brunswick

While it expired in 2012, the ASEP labour market initiative improved employment and training prospects for Indigenous People by supporting skills upgrading and providing on the job work experience opportunities that had lasting benefits for First Nations communities. The programme offered training in resource based sectors, such as forestry, mining, oil and gas, fishery, hydro development and construction (Aboriginal, 2008; Evaluation, 2015). Overall, 2 out of 5 ASEP participants (43%) were able to secure employment in the project’s target industry. A large majority emphasized the importance of acquiring relevant education and skills, in attaining their employment (Summative, 2009). Thus, the ISET programme has built upon those results and used an integrated approach to help Indigenous workforce prepare for, find and maintain employment in the short and long-term.

Critical success factors identified from the case studies

There are a number of emerging success factors that have been identified from the in-depth fieldwork conducted as part of this OECD study, which can inform future policy and programme planning regarding the management and delivery of active labour market programmes.

Building the capacity of programmes managed and delivered by Indigenous People

The management and leadership of the Indigenous service delivery organisations analysed as part of this OECD study stressed the importance of having staff who are all Indigenous as a critical success factor in delivering employment programmes. Given the historical context in which Indigenous People have participated in government programmes, having front-line staff of Indigenous background ensures the appropriate cultural awareness of the barriers often faced by Indigenous People in looking for a job. This is critical in building trust with potential Indigenous job seekers, who often seek life-skills coaching and counselling as well as other pre-employment supports to ensure that they can remain in employment once they have successfully found a job.

Similar to views expressed during the federal government’s consultations on the future of Indigenous labour market programming, there was common feedback among the case study areas on the need to strengthen the capacity of service delivery organisations. This means supporting the development of front-line employees, expanding employment counsellor training, and better supporting agreement holders in managing administrative requirements.

Leadership, governance, and partnerships

A key principle to guide the successful implementation of active labour market programmes across the case study areas is stable and strong leadership. The case study areas highlighted the importance of good governance within their organisation to guide the management and delivery of programmes. This means often having a dedicated board of governors led by Indigenous People that have a clear vision, mandate, and long-term view of the future.

Another clear success factor is working in partnership with other organisations within the community. It is important to establish a collaborative approach amongst communities, employers, local businesses, training providers and the provincial and federal government. More specifically, in order to increase labour force participation and align education and skills training with economic development initiatives, local Indigenous organisations need to be consistently engaged to discuss workforce gaps and arising opportunities. By having an open dialogue, local stakeholders can become aware of a communities’ vision for the future and can better align programmes and services to meet Indigenous needs.

Programme flexibility

It is important to strike the right balance between accountability and flexibility. Currently, accountability provisions can be onerous both in terms of the frequency and length of reporting. A key guiding principle for federal programme design should be working with Indigenous communities versus administering a programme. Feedback from the case study areas stressed the importance of examining situations where increased programme flexibility can be designed to recognize local innovation and performance in addition to acknowledging the nation to nation relationship that is changing the functions of government relations between the federal government and Indigenous communities.

For example, federal active labour market programmes for Indigenous People have placed a strong emphasis on obtaining meaningful employment as a successful outcome of government intervention; however Indigenous People often face severe and multiple barriers to employment. Under the new ISET program currently being co-implemented with Indigenous partners, more emphasis will be placed on overall outcome progression along the skills development continuum. This will allow agreement holders to deliver services to clients facing multiple barriers who might require more pre-employment supports.

Feedback from the case study areas suggests that there are potential benefits of putting in place longer term funding agreements for service delivery. The new ISETs program is addressing this issue extending current arrangements from five to 10 years. This is consistent with feedback through the federal government’s engagement process with Indigenous communities where there was a consensus on the need to extend the length of active labour market programmes to allow agreement holders to undertake longer-term planning, to support Indigenous People for longer interventions, and identify results over a longer timeframe.

Developing robust local labour market information

To correctly tailor employment and training programmes it is important to carefully analyse the current and estimated labour market supply and demand factors in the local labour market. Across the case study areas, a barrier that First Nations’ community developers and leaders face is an insufficient/inadequate knowledge of the current labour skills and the business capacity of their people. Not having a solid understanding of workforce needs prevents Indigenous communities from developing appropriate programmes and services to advance community employment and economic growth.

Secondly, if leaders are not fully aware of the rising needs or opportunities in their communities, they cannot adequately advocate or negotiate terms for building community capacity with other key organisations. In New Brunswick, Esgenoôpetitj and Elsipogtog First Nations overcame that barrier by partnering up with JEDI to create a workforce database which helps connect community members with employment opportunities. For example, Working Warriors is an online tool which community members can use to create or upload their resumes and apply for jobs within New Brunswick. This tool helps communities capture their workforce’s skills capacity and then utilize that information to assist members with job readiness and employability skills (Working Warriors in New Brunswick, 2015; Joint Economic Development of First Nations Communities: Institutional Arrangements, 2016). Community leaders can now work together with external organisations to create a comprehensive strategic workforce development plan.

Notes

1. Statistics Canada states that “The participation rate is the number of labour force participants expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over. The participation rate for a particular group (age, sex, marital status, etc.) is the number of labour force participants in that group expressed as a percentage of the population for that group. Estimates are percentages, rounded to the nearest tenth” (Statistics Canada, 2016e).

2. Statistics Canada states that “The employment rate is the number of persons employed expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over. The employment rate for a particular group (age, sex, marital status, etc.) is the number employed in that group expressed as a percentage of the population for that group. Estimates are percentages, rounded to the nearest tenth” (Statistics Canada, 2016e).

3. The data that is available and being analysed for this section is from the Labour Force Survey and excludes on-reserve, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Nunavut. It is important to note that the inequality demonstrated would likely be more significant if the data included on-reserve and territorial population labour market indicators.

4. Formerly known as the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS).

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