• Tuition fees in public institutions in Canada are among the highest for a bachelor's programme across countries with available data. National students were charged USD 5 060 per year for a bachelor's degree in 2019/20, 9% more than they were charged on average in 2009/10.

  • Across most OECD countries, socio-economic status influences learning outcomes more than gender and immigrant status. In Canada, the proportion of children from the bottom quartile of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status (ESCS) achieving at least PISA level 2 in reading in 2018 was 15% lower than that of children from the top ESCS quartile, a smaller share than the OECD average of 29%.

  • International student mobility at the tertiary level has risen steadily reaching about 279 200 students in Canada and representing 16% of tertiary students in 2019. The largest share of international tertiary students studying in Canada comes from China. Students from low and lower-middle income countries are generally less likely to study abroad. However, they represent a larger share of international students in Canada, 42%, compared to 29% in total across OECD countries.

  • Large differences in educational attainment may lead to starker earnings inequality in many countries. In Canada, 36% of 25-64 year-old adults with below upper secondary attainment earned at or below half the median earnings in 2018, above the OECD average of 27%.

  • Tertiary education has been expanding in the last decades, and, in 2020, 25-34 year-old women were more likely than men to achieve tertiary education in all OECD countries. In Canada, 73% of 25-34 year-old women had a tertiary qualification in 2020 compared to 56% of their male peers, while on average across OECD countries the shares were 52% among young women and 39% among young men.

  • Gender differences in the distribution of tertiary entrants across fields of study are significant. Women tend to be under-represented in certain fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) across most OECD countries. On average, 26% of new entrants in engineering, manufacturing and construction and 20% in information and communication technologies were women in 2017. In Canada, women represented 21% of new entrants in engineering, manufacturing and construction programmes and 20% in information and communication technologies. In contrast, they represented 78% of new entrants to the field of education, a sector traditionally dominated by women.

  • Young women are less likely to be employed than young men, particularly those with lower levels of education. Only 39% of 25-34 year-old women with below upper secondary attainment were employed in 2020 compared to 62% of men in Canada. This gender difference is slightly smaller than the average across OECD countries, where 43% of women and 69% of men with below upper secondary attainment are employed.

  • In nearly all OECD countries and at all levels of educational attainment, 25-64 year-old women earn less than their male peers: their earnings correspond to 76%-78% of men’s earnings on average across OECD countries. This proportion varies more across educational attainment levels within countries than on average across OECD countries. Compared to other education levels, women with below upper secondary education in Canada have the lowest earnings relative to men with a similar education level, earning 64% as much, while those with tertiary education earn 73% as much.

  • On average across OECD countries with available data, 25-64 year-old women tend to participate slightly more in adult learning than men of the same age. In Canada, 58% of women participated in formal and/or non-formal education and training in 2016, compared to 59% of men. Family reasons were reported as barriers to participation in formal and/or non-formal education and training by 21% of women compared to 11% of men.

  • On average across the OECD, foreign-born adults (25-64 year-olds) account for 22% of all adults with below upper secondary attainment, 14% of those attaining upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment, and 18% of tertiary-educated adults. But in Canada, the share of foreign-born adults among all adults with a given level of educational attainment is the highest among tertiary-educated adults (35% in 2020).

  • Foreign-born adults have more difficulty finding a job than their native-born peers as they face various challenges, such as discrepancies in credential recognition, skills, and language. Thus, foreign-born workers are likely to have a lower reservation wage (the lowest wage rate at which a worker would be willing to accept a particular type of job). As a result, the employment rate for foreign-born adults with low educational attainment is higher than the rate for their native-born peers in many countries. On average across OECD countries, among adults without upper secondary attainment, 57% of native-born adults are employed compared to 61% of foreign-born adults. In Canada, however, the employment rate of foreign-born adults without upper secondary attainment was 53% in 2020, slightly lower than that of their native-born peers (55%).

  • The likelihood of being employed increases with the level of educational attainment, but foreign-born adults with tertiary attainment generally have lower employment prospects than their native-born peers. On average across OECD countries, 86% of native-born tertiary-educated adults are employed compared to 79% for foreign-born tertiary-educated adults. In Canada, among tertiary-educated adults, 81% of native-born adults and 76% of foreign-born adults are employed. Foreign-born adults who arrived in the country at an early age have spent some years in their host country’s education system and gained nationally recognised credentials. As a result, their labour-market outcomes are generally better than that of those who arrived at a later age with a foreign qualification. In Canada, among foreign-born adults with tertiary attainment, 80% of those who arrived by the age of 15 are employed, compared to 76% of those who arrived in the country at age 16 or later.

  • Foreign-born young adults (15-29 year-olds) are also more likely to be neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) than native-born young adults. On average across OECD countries, 18.8% of foreign-born and 13.7% of native-born adults are NEET. In Canada, the difference is much smaller, at 1 percentage point (14.1% compared to 13.3%). Early arrival in the country is generally associated with a lower risk of becoming NEET. In Canada, the share of NEETs among foreign-born young adults who arrived by the age of 15 is 12%, while the share of NEETs among those who arrived at age 16 or later is 19%.

  • In many OECD countries, foreign-born adults earn less than native-born adults. This pay gap may narrow with higher levels of educational attainment. On average across OECD countries, foreign-born adults with below secondary attainment working full-time earn 89% as much as their native-born peers, while this gap disappears among tertiary-educated adults. In Canada, in 2018, among adults with below upper secondary attainment, the earnings of foreign-born full-time workers represented 89% that of their native-born peers, 80% among adults with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment, and 86% among those with a tertiary-education.

  • Tertiary attainment may vary significantly within a country. In Canada, the share of 25-64 year-old adults with tertiary education varies from 34% in the region of Nunavut to 62% in the region of Ontario, one of the highest regional variations across OECD countries with available data.

  • On average across OECD and partner countries with subnational data on labour-force status, there is more regional variation in employment rates among those with below upper secondary education (17 percentage points) than for those with tertiary education (8 percentage points). In Canada, there is a difference of 25 percentage points in the employment rate of adults with below upper secondary education between different regions of the country compared to 13 percentage points for tertiary-educated adults.

  • The spread of COVID-19 has continued to impede access to in-person education in many countries around the world in 2021. By mid-May 2021, 37 OECD and partner countries had experienced periods of full school closure since the start of 2020.

  • During periods of full school closure in 2020, 21 OECD and partner countries have opted to keep upper secondary general schools virtually open as a national level strategy, including in Canada where each day of remote learning was considered equivalent to a full day of in-person instruction. The way that online platforms have operated during school closures has varied between countries. In Canada, decisions on how online platforms should operate were made at the local level from primary to upper secondary education. At tertiary level, a hybrid approach was adopted, including a blend of both asynchronous and synchronous online learning.

  • Countries have faced difficult decisions on how to best manage their resources to ensure that students can continue to access quality education in the safest possible conditions and to minimise disruption to learning. Before the pandemic, total public expenditure on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education in Canada reached 3.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, which was similar to the OECD average. About two-thirds of OECD and partner countries reported increases in the funding allocated to primary and secondary schools to help them cope with the crisis in 2020. Compared to 2019, Canada reported no change in the fiscal year education budget for primary and lower secondary general education in 2020.

  • Countries’ approach to prioritise teachers in vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 has varied. In total, 19 OECD and partner countries have prioritised at least some teachers as part of the government’s plans to vaccinate the population on a national level (as of 20 May 2021). In Canada, however, the decision to prioritise the vaccination of teachers has varied regionally across school boards and districts.

  • The impact of the pandemic on the economy has raised concerns about the prospects of young adults, especially those leaving education earlier than others. In Canada, the unemployment rate among 25-34 year-olds with below upper secondary attainment was 15.8% in 2020, an increase of 4 percentage points from the previous year. In comparison, the average youth unemployment rate of 15.1% in 2020 across OECD countries represented an increase of 2 percentage points from 2019 (Figure 2).

  • Despite the impact of the crisis on employment, the share of NEETs among 18-24 year-olds did not greatly increase in most OECD and partner countries during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, the share of 18-24 year-old NEETs in OECD countries rose from 14.4% in 2019 to 16.1% in 2020. In Canada, the share of 18-24 year-old NEETs was 13.5% in 2019, which increased to 19.8% in 2020.

  • Annual expenditure per student on educational institutions provides an indication of the investment countries make on each student. After accounting for public-to-private transfers, public expenditure on primary to tertiary educational institutions per full-time student in Canada was USD 11 285 in 2018 (in equivalent USD converted using PPPs for GDP) compared to USD 10 000 on average across OECD countries.

  • The provision of education across public and private institutions influences the allocation of resources between levels of education and types of institution. In 2018, Canada spent USD 11 854 per student at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education, USD 1 400 higher than the OECD average of USD 10 454. At tertiary level, Canada invested USD 24 496 per student, USD 7 431 more than the OECD average. Expenditure per student on public educational institutions is higher than on private institutions on average across OECD countries. In Canada, the difference is much higher as total expenditure on primary to tertiary public institutions amounts to USD 15 347 per student compared to USD 7 891 on private ones.

  • Between 2012 and 2018, expenditure per student from primary to tertiary education increased at an average annual growth rate of 1.6% across OECD countries. In Canada, expenditure on educational institutions grew at an average annual rate of 1.8%, while the number of students grew on average by 1% per year over this period. This resulted in an average annual growth rate of 0.8% in expenditure per student over this period.

  • Among OECD countries, Canada spent the eighth highest proportion of its GDP on primary to tertiary educational institutions. In 2018, Canada spent on average 5.9% of GDP on primary to tertiary educational institutions, which is 1 percentage point higher than the OECD average. Across levels of education, Canada devoted a higher share of GDP than the OECD average at both non-tertiary and tertiary levels (Figure 3).

  • The share of capital costs on total expenditure on educational institutions is similar to the OECD average at primary to tertiary level in Canada. At primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary level, capital costs account for 8% of total spending on educational institutions, similar to the OECD average (8%). At the tertiary level, capital costs represent 10%, slightly lower than the average across OECD countries of 11%.

  • Compensation of teachers and other staff employed in educational institutions represents the largest share of current expenditure from primary to tertiary education. In 2018, Canada allocated 75% of its current expenditure to staff compensation, compared to 74% on average across OECD countries. Staff compensation tends to make up a smaller share of current expenditure on tertiary institutions due to the higher costs of facilities and equipment at this level. In Canada, staff compensation represents 66% of current expenditure on tertiary institutions compared to 81% at non-tertiary levels. On average across OECD countries, the share is 68% at tertiary level and 77% at non-tertiary level.

  • The salaries of school staff, and in particular teachers and school heads, represent the largest single expenditure in formal education. Their salary levels also have an impact on the attractiveness of the teaching profession. In most OECD countries and economies, statutory salaries of teachers (and school heads) in public educational institutions increase with the level of education they teach, and also with experience. However, in Canada, salaries increase with the years of experience only.

  • On average, statutory salaries of teachers with maximum qualifications at the top of their salary scales (maximum salaries) were between 86% and 91% higher than those of teachers with the minimum qualifications at the start of their career (minimum salaries) at primary and general lower and upper secondary levels in 2020. In Canada, maximum salaries were 94% higher than minimum salaries at each level of education (Figure 4).

  • In primary and secondary education, about 35% of teachers on average across OECD countries will reach retirement age in the next decade, while the size of the school-age population is projected to increase in some countries, putting many governments under pressure to recruit and train new teachers. In 2019, the proportion of teachers in Canada aged at least 50 years old was lower than the OECD average and reached 27% in 2019.


OECD (2021), Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2021), “Regional education”, OECD Regional Statistics (database), (accessed on 27 July 2021).

OECD (2021), “The state of global education – 18 months into the pandemic”, OECD Publishing, Paris,

For more information on Education at a Glance 2021 and to access the full set of Indicators, see:

For more information on the methodology used during the data collection for each indicator, the references to the sources and the specific notes for each country, see Annex 3 (

For general information on the methodology, please refer to the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications (

Updated data can be found on line at and by following the StatLinks 2under the tables and charts in the publication.

Data on subnational regions for selected indicators are available in the OECD Regional Statistics (database) (OECD, 2021). When interpreting the results on subnational entities, readers should take into account that the population size of subnational entities can vary widely within countries. For example, regional variation in enrolment may be influenced by students attending school in a different region from their area of residence, particularly at higher levels of education. Also, regional disparities tend to be higher when more subnational entities are used in the analysis.

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The data on educational responses during COVID-19 were collected and processed by the OECD based on the Survey on Joint National Responses to COVID-19 School Closures, a collaborative effort conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the World Bank; and the OECD.

This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

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