Goal 7

Labour Force Participation Rate - Deep Dive

Goal Status

donut shaped icon to signify the status of not progressing Not Progressing Not On Track
Current: 2.1
Baseline: 0.9
Target: 0

The labour force participation rate is driven in large part by demographics. Both people under the age of 25 (predominantly students) and people over the age of 55 (people beginning to retire) tend to be less likely to be employed or looking for work compared to “core age” workers – people aged 25 through 54. Thus, differences between Nova Scotia and Canada’s demographic makeup, specifically the age composition of the population can account for much of, but not all, of the difference in their respective participation rates.

Age Group Canada Nova Scotia
15-19 50.70% 53.60%
20-24 77.40% 77.10%
25-29 87.20% 87.30%
30-34 89.60% 89.90%
35-39 89.40% 88.90%
40-45 90.10% 88.50%
45-49 89.00% 87.10%
50-54 87.40% 85.30%
55-59 78.00% 74.50%
60-64 58.50% 51.60%

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The Nova Scotia population is on average older than the Canadian population. Therefore, a larger portion of the Nova Scotia labour force population (age 15-64) is age 50 to 64 (32.8 per cent) compared to Canada (29.9 per cent). Conversely, a smaller portion of the province’s labour force population is age 25-49 – 49.3 per cent versus 51.7 per cent at the Canadian average. The population aged 50 and over have lower participation rates than younger cohorts across the country. In Nova Scotia, this age group has participation rates even lower than the Canadian average. Consequently, Nova Scotia has a larger share of the population with low labour force participation, and a smaller share of the population in higher participating cohorts.


This means that even if individual Nova Scotians had the same likelihood of labour force participation as the average Canadian at a given age, Nova Scotia would still have a lower overall participation rate because of its population being older on average.

Age Group Canada Nova Scotia
15-19 8.54% 8.14%
20-24 9.82% 9.75%
25-29 10.47% 10.31%
30-34 11.12% 10.48%
35-39 10.53% 9.81%
40-45 10.46% 9.36%
45-49 9.15% 9.34%
50-54 9.61% 9.57%
55-59 9.90% 11.06%
60-64 10.40% 12.21%

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Age differences can be controlled for by looking at the participation rate for comparable 5-year age groups in Nova Scotia and Canada. In general, Nova Scotia’s participation rates tend to be below the Canadian average with the smallest gap for core aged workers. In 2023, Nova Scotians aged 15 to 19 and those aged 25 to 34 had higher participation rates than Canadians of the same age. Nova Scotians aged 55 to 64 had the largest negative gap, with participation rates much lower than the Canadian average.

Age Group Gap
15-19 2.90%
20-24 -0.30%
25-29 0.10%
30-34 0.30%
35-39 -0.50%
40-45 -1.60%
45-49 -1.90%
50-54 -2.10%
55-59 -3.50%
60-64 -6.90%

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Looking forward, the Canadian participation rate is likely to start falling as its population ages, bringing Nova Scotia more in line with the national trend.



  • Statistics Canada conducted an historical revision to rebase the population in early 2021.  This results in revisions to the baseline indicators for the 2012 reference year.   
  • The indicator was changed to measure the participation rate of the population age 15-64, rather than 15 and older. This change removed retirees from the indicator, as increasing participation among this age group was not considered to be the intent of the goal.
  • Contextual numbers were removed from the statement of the goal. The target was assumed to be the closing of the gap between the participation rate in Nova Scotia and Canada, not for Nova Scotia to reach the Canadian rate of 66.4% quoted for context in the OneNS report. This was done to keep the goal consistent in case of future historical revisions to the source data.