Ottawa -- Minimum-wage workers in 2003 tended to be teenagers or young adults with lower levels of education in service-sector jobs, employed part time with short job tenure, says Statistics Canada.
They represented about four per cent of paid workers, down from 5.7 per cent in 1997, and across the country they totalled 547,000 people.
"Some were working to finance their education or support their families, while others were older workers looking to supplement their pension," the agency said.
Women accounted for almost two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in 2003. One in 20 women was a minimum-wage worker, compared with one in 35 men.
Individuals aged 24 and under were eight times as likely to be minimum-wage workers as those over 24.
And "nearly half of minimum-wage workers were aged 15 to 19, with more than three-quarters of these attending school either full time or part time. Another 15 per cent were between 20 and 24, four out of 10 of whom were students."
About 41 per cent of all minimum-wage workers did not have a high school diploma, compared with 15 per cent of all employees.
"This would explain the high rates of minimum-wage work among young people, many of whom have not yet completed their studies."
Most of them worked in accommodation and food services or retail trade.
However, some 27,000 heads of family with no spouse worked for minimum wage or less.
"Although they made up only five per cent of all minimum-wage workers, almost all had at least one child under the age of 18 to support. In addition, some 31,000 minimum-wage workers had a spouse who was not employed."
In another study on work, the agency reported that fewer than one-half of Canadian workers who had a low-paying job in 1996 had climbed out of it by 2001.
"In December 1996, nearly one-third of Canadian workers, or about 1.7 million, were in low-paying jobs," Statistics Canada said.
"By 2001, 47 per cent of these low-paid workers, around 800,000, had moved out of their low-paying jobs.
"Individuals with weekly earnings of less than $410.70 at the end of 1996 were flagged as 'low-paid workers.' A low-paid worker in 1996 was said to have 'moved up' if weekly earnings by 2001 were at least $496.86 a week."
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