Canada’s Postdocs Happy With Research, Dissatisfied With Pay and Status


“Administrative ambiguity,” “low compensation and benefits,” and “insufficient training” are the three biggest problems facing Canada’s postdocs, according to a report issued on 2 October by the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars and Mitacs, a nonprofit training and research organization. Presenting answers given by 1830 postdocs at 130 institutions including “universities, hospitals, government laboratories, and private companies,” The 2013 Canadian Postdoc Survey: Painting a Picture of Canadian Postdoctoral Scholars found that these early-career scholars were “generally satisfied with the state of their research environment.”

Their bureaucratic position, financial situation, and career prospects are another matter, however. Many respondents indicated that they would “like to be treated as employees, and to receive benefits and compensation commensurate with their work and experience.” In addition, the report states, postdocs want to be offered “appropriate and relevant career development opportunities.”

Many respondents indicated that they would “like to be treated as employees, and to receive benefits and compensation commensurate with their work and experience.”

True to its subtitle, the survey provides a detailed portrait of Canada’s postdoc population, a picture that closely mirrors what we know about their counterparts south of the border. Aged 34 on average, 69% of respondents are married or in long-term relationships and a third are parents. Women comprise almost half the respondent. More than half of the postdoc population is from abroad, with 15% being landed immigrants (Canada’s equivalent of permanent residents) and 38% holding work visas. Half received their doctorates in countries other than Canada. “In short, postdocs are adults: in the middle of their lives, but at the beginning of their careers.”

But those adults are facing economic stringency. Only a third earn more than $45,000 Canadian dollars a year and “many do not have access to their institutions’ health or dental insurance plans or are ineligible for employment insurance and pension contributions.” The majority of postdocs consider their pay inadequate, and 70% feel that way about their fringe benefits. Their economic status overall is in “a dire need for improvement,” the report says.

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