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Natives in Canada suffer from high unemployment

Unemployment rates among Native people in four western provinces are more than twice as high as the non-Native population, according to data released by the Canadian government on Monday.

For the 12 months ending in March 2005, 13.6 percent of Native people in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia were unemployed, Statistics Canada reported. In comparison only 5.3 percent of non-Natives in these same provinces were unemployment.

Saskatchewan, where Natives make up 13.6 percent of the population, and British Columbia, whose population is 4.4 percent, saw the highest rates of joblessness. According to the data, 16.9 percent of Natives in Saskatchewan went without jobs, four times higher than the non-Native rate. In British Columbia, the Native unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, compared 6.6 percent for non-Natives.

The problem was even more acute among young Natives ages 15 to 24. "The unemployment rate for Aboriginal youth was more than double that of non-Aboriginal youth � 20.8 percent compared with 10.0 percent," the report stated.

The "Labour Force Survey" only focused on Native people who live off-reserve. Unemployment rates on First Nations reserves are believed to be much higher.

But the report, the first of its kind by the Canadian government, indicated some bright spots. Overall, the number of Natives in the work force has increased since 2001 and the unemployment rate has dropped four percentage points in the last four years, according to Statistics Canada.

Metis Natives are just as likely at non-Natives to find jobs, the report stated. And Natives in Alberta benefited from the province's growing economy, according to the data.

"Off-reserve Aboriginal peoples in Alberta had the highest employment rate (62.6 percent) and the lowest unemployment rate (10.2 percent) compared with the other western provinces," Statistics Canada said. "In fact, their employment rate was similar to the Canadian average in 2005 of 62.7 percent." Natives make up 5.3 percent of Alberta's population.

Education makes a different in employment status, the report stated. Natives ages 25 to 64 who have completed college had nearly the same employment rate as non-Natives, the data showed. Unemployment was also lower among college-educated Natives.

According to the 2001 Census, Canadian Aboriginals -- defined as Indian, Inuit and Metis -- made up 3.3 percent of Canada's population. Their numbers have been growing by leaps and bounds since the 1960s, whereas the rest of the nation has experienced just moderate growth.

Overall, there are more than 1.3 million Native people in Canada. Most live in the North and in the Plains.

American Indian and Alaska Natives in the United States also suffer from high unemployment rates, according to statistics. The data varies widely but on some reservations, the jobless rate is as high as 70 percent.

In January, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development said the average unemployment rate among Native Americans on reservations and Indian areas was 18.5 percent.

Get the Report:
Labour Force Survey: Western Canada's off-reserve Aboriginal population (June 2005)

Relevant Links:
Statistics Canada -