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More Coasters opting for self-employment

Graph by Donna McMahon

New data from Statistics Canada reveals that more Sunshine Coast residents than ever before are relying on self-employment. Residents of the Sunshine Coast are more than twice as likely to be self-employed (26 per cent) as the Canadian average (12 per cent).

In 2011, the Census counted 2,970 SCRD residents who were self-employed, but by 2016 that number had jumped to 3,660. In that five years, the number of people the workforce employed by someone else dropped (-460) and the number reporting self-employment rose (+690).

The work data was released Nov. 29, the final installment of figures from the 2016 Census.

The number of workers commuting outside the SCRD has dropped in the decade since the Census last recorded people’s work location. In 2006, 1,295 people reported working off Coast (9.5 per cent of the workforce). Ten years later the number was 1,025 (7.6 per cent of the workforce).

At the same time, the number of people working from home rose, especially at the south end of the Coast. For instance, in 2006 the Town of Gibsons had almost the same number of commuters (11.7 per cent) as people working from home (11.1 per cent). By 2016, home workers (19.7 per cent) outnumbered commuters (8.3 per cent) more than two to one.

Cheryl McNicol, a small business owner who manages and delivers self-employment training programs for the YMCA on the Sunshine Coast, is not surprised by the rise in self-employment.

“Since 2012 there has been a steady increase in the number of entrepreneurs completing the program offered through the Open Door Group Work BC Employment Centre,” said McNicol. “I have also seen an increase in clients for my coaching and business plan writing services, especially in the past two years.”

Richard Hoath, who works in the tech sector and is the coordinator of sctechhub.ca, says he’s heard that more people working in the digital space are able to set up remote work arrangements or commute part-time.

“There has been an increase this fall in mid-career digital professionals new to the Coast connecting with the @SCtechhub,” said Hoath.

“Entrepreneurs are launching their ideas from the Coast which is awesome. They are leveraging technology to promote and reach a market on the Coast and beyond. It is great to see that Coast support for this next gen entrepreneur is happening through workshops offered by organizations like Community Futures, and supported by local networking through groups like the TechHub and the Self Employed Womens Network.”

The Coast’s shifting work patterns may be part of a national trend away from regular full-time jobs. According to Statistics Canada, the proportion of men aged 25 to 54 working full time all year was down to 56.2 per cent (in 2015), the lowest proportion since they started gathering data on employment in 1980. The proportion of women in this group working full time was 43.7 per cent.

However, fewer seniors are fully retiring. Statistics Canada reported that one in five (19.8 per cent) Canadians aged 65 and older worked at least some time during the year, an all-time high.

The overall size of the Sunshine Coast workforce has declined as the Coast’s median age has risen. In 2016, the total number of Coast residents who were working was 13,420, down from 13,585 in 2006. In the same 10-year period, the total population rose from 27,759 (with a median age of 48.5) to 29,970 (with a median age of 54.9).  Donna McMahon

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