Self-employment and retirement trends in rural BC

Last Updated: April 27, 2017

In the recent report, A profile of self-employment in rural and small town Canada: Is there an impending retirement of self-employed business operators?, Statistics Canada describes self-employment in rural Canada and reveals which sectors are expected to experience high levels of retirement in the coming years. Here are a few of the highlights.  Please see the report for details.

Self-employment in rural and small town Canada

Rural and small town areas typically have a high number of self-employed individuals operating small businesses the majority of which are unincorporated. These
Farmer driving a load of pumpkins
self-employed individuals often provide important services in rural and small town areas such as general stores, hair styling salons or electrical contracting.

Canada’s 2010 labour force survey identified 2.7 million individuals as being self-employed. Of those, approximately 0.6 million people were located in rural and small town Canada, that represents 21% of total employment in these areas. However, 6-7% of those reported as self-employed hold additional employment elsewhere. Although agriculture has the largest number of self-employed individuals across all sectors in rural and small town Canada, in recent years rural self-employment in the farming and the wholesale/retail sector has been decreasing. Growth of self-employment is evident in the construction and professional, scientific and technical services sectors.

Defining self-employment

Industry Canada defines a small business as one with less than 100 employees. 97% of the firms in rural and small town Canada have less than 50 employees. For this report the term self-employed includes working owners of incorporated businesses, farms or professional practices, working owners of unincorporated businesses and self-employed workers who do not own a business, such as babysitters. Statistics Canada differentiates this term from entrepreneurs who, according to their definition, innovate and grow business. Rural and small town areas refer to regions with urban core populations of less than 10,000 or regions in which 30% or less of the population commutes to a center of +10,000 people. Statistics Canada provides a detailed definition.

Self-employment & retirement

Reflecting the general trend toward an aging population, there is a large number of self-employed individuals in rural and small town Canada (24% in 2010) aged between 55 and 64. The share of self-employed individuals approaching retirement is higher in rural and small town areas than in metropolitan areas. There is an expectation that many of these individuals will elect to retire in the next ten years.

The following sectors are expected to see the highest share of retirements:

  • funeral home operators (43%),
  • storage facility operators (43%),
  • clay and brick manufacturers (40%),
  • educational and vocational counselors, (39%), and
  • operators of private or boarding schools.

Keep in mind, that in each of these sectors the total number of self-employed individuals is fewer than 250 people, but these industries have the highest percentage of individuals aged between 55 and 64. Statistics Canada also documented the sectors likely to have the highest overall number of retirements. These include:

  • Farming and agriculture – 33,000 self-employed farmers are approaching retirement.
  • House contractors – 4,105 contractors are expected to retire in the next 10 years, that is 19% of current self-employed house contractors.
  • Operators of landscaping, building cleaning or pest control services – 3,145 individuals, 20% of the self-employed population in this sector.

What will the impact be?

Old man shelving books in bookstore
A growing number of retirees in these areas may result in a decline in employment opportunities in some sectors in rural Canada. It may also put pressure on the labour market if a retirement cohort is not fully replaced by younger generations providing the same type of services. This means there may be opportunities for new business owners to fill the gap. Keep in mind, this is simply projection.  An earlier report from Statistics Canada found that there is a trend toward delayed retirement. More people are choosing to work longer. There is also a growing number of people aged between 55 and 64 starting businesses

Whether your are a "grey entrepreneur" or fresh out school, the SBA has resources to help you start your business research. If you are interested entering one of the industries in rural BC anticipating high retirement accelerator guides are available on organic farming, education services, pest control and much more!


Hicks, L. (2012). Older entrepreneurs find new niche in startups. USAToday.
Statistics Canada. (2011). Delayed retirement: A new trend? Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada. (2012). A Profile of self-employment in rural and small town Canada: Is there an impending retirement of self-employed business operators? Statistics Canada.

PHOTO CREDIT: Here comes the pumpkin man. Created by Alby Headrick October 29 2006. Photo made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jens Oluf 1/3 created by Niels Linneberg May 19 2012. Photo made available under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.