Job Quality Indicators » Computers At Work

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Computer Use in the Canadian Workplace

The use of personal computers in Canadian workplaces has increased dramatically. Between 1989 and 2000, the proportion of people who use a computer at work roughly doubled.


Almost One In Two Canadian Employees Use a PC At Work Daily

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).

As the chart shows, roughly half of Canadian workers in 2000 said that they used a computer at work on a daily basis. Women are slightly more likely than men to report this to be the case, and full-time workers are much more likely than part-timers to report making regular use of a computer for work-related purposes.


Computer Use At Work Is 'All or Nothing'

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).

If one reports using a computer at all, it is likely that such use is frequent. As the chart shows, only a very small minority of employed Canadians (8 percent) say they ‘sometimes’ use a computer at work. The vast majority either rarely or never use a computer at work (48 percent) or use one daily (44 percent).


By Education and Income

Daily Computer Use At Work Associated With Education and Income 

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).

Using a computer in one’s job appears to be strongly associated with an individual’s level of education. While seven in ten university graduates make daily use of a computer at work, only three in ten with high school education or less reported using a computer daily. Those with other post-secondary credentials, like a college diploma or certificate, occupy a middle ground -- being significantly more likely to use a computer daily at work than those with no more than a high school education, but significantly less likely to do so than university graduates. There is also a clear association between computer use and personal income, with those in higher income groups being significantly more likely to make daily use of a computer at work.


By Industry and Occupation

Frequent PC Use Varies Markedly By Industry and Occupation

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).

Daily computer use at work varies considerably by industry and occupation. For instance, almost four in five of those in financial services report using a computer at work every day. Similarly, three quarters (73 percent) of those employed in public administration report daily computer use in the workplace. Conversely, only about one in three employees in health/social services, accommodation/trade, and utilities/transportation report daily PC use, and one in five in agriculture and construction say that this is the case. There are similar patterns by occupation. Managers, professionals and clerical workers are the most likely to report frequently using a computer at work. The computer is an important information-processing tool for many professionals and managers today. Clerical workers also make frequent use computers for tasks like word processing, data entry and record keeping. Daily computer use at work remains uncommon in sales and services and blue collar work. In short, intensive use of computers at work appears to be highly concentrated in certain industries and occupations.

Although there are a few small differences regarding the number of employees reporting they 'sometimes' use a PC by industry and occupation, using a computer at work appears to be, by and large, an all or nothing phenomena, irrespective of job type. Occasional use of computers was slightly above the norm in technical services (11 percent), education and information (15 percent) and health and social services (12 percent). Reported occasional use of computers was rare in all other groups, ranging between five and eight percent of employees (data not shown).

The pattern of use by occupation and industry suggests that intensity of use is related to the nature of work, with more intense use being evident in occupations where much of the work consists of information processing. Moreover, the differences that cut across education, personal income, occupation and industry lines suggest that there exists what has been dubbed a 'digital divide' in the Canadian labour market, with more intensive computer use being associated with more highly educated workers in better-paying jobs.

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