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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 4, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 28
Canada's Nonprofits Are Huge Force, Larger Than in U.S.

By Glenn Small

Canada's nonprofit sector is a huge, vibrant force that is 50 percent larger than Canada's entire retail industry, according to groundbreaking research released last week by Imagine Canada and the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

And as a proportion of the entire economy, Canada's nonprofit sector surpasses that of the United States. Canada's private nonprofit organizations employ more than 11 percent of the economically active population in the country, compared to just less than 10 percent in the United States. Although in raw numbers, the United States has the largest nonprofit sector, proportionately speaking, Canada's nonprofit sector is the second largest in the world, behind only the Netherlands.

"The results of this project demonstrate that Canada has participated extensively in the global associational revolution that has been taking place around the world as governments and citizens have turned to nonprofit organizations to help address public problems," noted Lester M. Salamon, director of the Johns Hopkins project.

These findings are the result of a two-year research project carried out in Canada as part of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project. They supplement earlier findings of this project demonstrating that the nonprofit sector constitutes a significant economic force in countries throughout the world.

In the 37 countries for which data are now available, nonprofit organizations engage a work force of some 47.6 million full-time-equivalent workers. This is eight times as many people as are employed in the utilities industry in these countries and about 20 percent more people than are employed in the transportation industry.

"We are only just beginning to understand how important this sector is to our society and to our economy," said Georgina Steinsky-Schwartz, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, formerly the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy. "This research shows that we rank extremely well internationally, but there is still a lot of work to be done to improve the sector's capacity to deliver social and economic benefits to Canadians."

Other highlights of the Canadian findings include the following:

Canada's nonprofit sector work force is 11 times larger than the country's motor vehicle manufacturing industry, and more than four times larger than its entire agriculture sector. It is more than 50 percent larger than Canada's entire retail trade industry.

Health care organizations employ nearly 31 percent of the nonprofit work force in Canada, compared to 14 percent on average in all the countries covered by the Johns Hopkins project.

Government support accounts for 51 percent of the revenue of Canadian nonprofit organizations, compared to 39 percent from fees and charges and 9 percent from all sources of philanthropy. Comparable figures for all the countries covered by the Johns Hopkins project are 35 percent for government, 53 percent from fees and charges, and 12 percent from philanthropy.

For more information about the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, go to


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