A record number of self-employed Canadians ran incorporated businesses and employed other people in 2015: some 651,000, a 4.8% increase from the previous year, according to Statistics Canada. These men and women are the heroes of the post-crisis years. Industries are dying; central bankers are dabbling withnegative interest rates; China is shifting to a “more sustainable growth path,” whatever that means; and Donald Trump and a socialist are being taken seriously as U.S. presidential candidates. Only a crazy person would start a business right now. Fortunately, several thousand Canadians did anyway.
I’m not sure we appreciate these people enough. In December, Canada added 23,000 jobs, all of them “self-employed”—mostly newly minted consultants, contractors and the like. Bay Street dismissed the report, as it always does when the gains are driven by entrepreneurs. I get it: Hiring and firing at big private firms is a better indicator of the overall health of the economy. But there is also no acknowledgement that someone who is self-employed one month could be the employer of dozens or hundreds of people six months later. Canadian economic thought is biased toward the steady job. So, for that matter, are Canadians; only about 9% of us were self-employed in 2013, according to the World Bank. (Compare that with 11% in Germany, 15% in the U.K. and 27% in South Korea.)
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