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Workplace and employee survey (WES) - synthetic files

The Workplace and Employee Survey (WES) is designed to explore a broad range of issues relating to employers and their employees. The objectives of the survey are to examine the relationships among competitiveness, innovation, technology use and human resource management on the employer side and technology use, training, job stability and earnings on the employee side. Employers and employees are linked at the micro data level; employees are selected from within sampled workplaces. Thus, information from both the supply and demand sides of the labour market is available to enrich studies on either side of the market

Series title: 
Workplace and employee survey - synthetic files
Data creator: 

Statistics Canada. Labour Statistics Division

Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. Data Liberation Initiative
Geographic coverage: 



This is a sample survey with a longitudinal design.

The survey frame is a list of all statistical locations that carries contact and classification (e.g., industrial classification) information on the units. This list is used for sample design and selection; ultimately, it provides contact and classification information for the selected units.

Workplace SurveyThe survey frame of the Workplace component of WES is created from the information available on the Statistics Canada Business Register.

Prior to sample selection, the business locations on the frame are stratified into relatively homogeneous groups called strata, which are then used for sample allocation and selection. The WES frame is stratified by industry (14), region (6), and size (3), which is defined using estimated employment. The size stratum boundaries are typically different for each industry/region combination. The cut-off points defining a particular size stratum are computed using a model-based approach. The sample is selected using Neyman allocation. This process partitions the target population into 252 strata. In 1999, 9,043 business locations were selected. In 2001, 1,792 locations were added for a total of 10,815. In 2003, 2,334 locations were added for a total of 13,149 business locations.

All sampled units are assigned a sampling weight (a raising factor is attached to each sampled unit to obtain estimates for the population from a sample). For example, if two units are selected at random and with equal probability out of a population of ten units, then each selected unit will represent five units in the population, and it will have a sampling weight of five.

The 2003 WES survey collected data from 6,565 out of the 8,065 sampled employers. The remaining employers were either out-of-business, seasonally inactive, holding companies, or out-of-scope. The majority of non-respondents were owner-operators with no paid help and in possession of a payroll deduction account.

The initial sample selected in 1999 is followed over time and is supplemented at two-year intervals with a sample of births selected from units added to the Business Register since the last survey occasion. Stratification of units remains constant over the life of the initial panel (set at 8 years). Whenever possible, the same sampling fractions are applied to all panels. Sometimes the sampling fractions are adjusted to offset stratum erosion, or to compensate for upswings or downswings in the economy. For 2001, they were revised slightly upward. This resulted in a birth panel of 1,792 workplaces. For 2003 this resulted in a birth panel of 2,334 workplaces.

Employee SurveyThe frame of the employee component of WES is based on lists of employees made available to interviewers by the selected workplaces. A maximum of twenty four employees are sampled using a probability mechanism. In workplaces with fewer than four employees, all employees are selected.

Sample Size - Employer1999 - 6,3222000 - 6,0682001 - 6,2072002 - 5,8182003 - 6,5652004 - 6,159

Sample Size - Employee1999 - 23,5402000 - 20,1672001 - 20,3522002 - 16,8132003 - 20,8342004 - 16,804

Employees will be followed for two years only, due to the difficulty of integrating new employers into the location sample as workers change companies. As such, fresh samples of employees will be drawn on every second survey occasion (i.e. first, third, fifth).

Mode of data collecton: 

Responding to this survey is mandatory. Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Data collection, data capture, preliminary editing and follow-up of non-respondents are all done in Statistics Canada Regional Offices. In 1999, workplace data were collected in person. As of 2000, computer assisted telephone interviews are conducted. For about 20% of the surveyed units (mostly large workplaces), more than one contact person is required.

For the employee component, telephone interviews are conducted with persons who agree to participate in the survey by filling out and mailing in an employee participation form.

Unit of observation: 
business location &amp; individual
Extent of file: 

4 data files per survey year (SAS, SPSS and Stata system files; number of logical records varies) & accompanying documentation

  • There are two reference periods used for the WES. Questions concerning employment breakdown use the last pay period of March for the reference year while other questions refer to the last 12-month period ending in March of the reference year
  • The synthetic files are provided to researchers in order for them to test their programs prior to the use of the remote access facility. They contain the same number of variables as the full data file ; however, they have a smaller number of observations (150 for the workplace portions and between 600 and 700 observations for the employee portion). These files are available in three formats (SPSS, SAS and STATA)
  • More information on WES or its data products and services is available from Labour Statistics Client Services (toll-free (1-866-873-8788 or 613-951-4090; <>)
  • The last survey year was 2005. The survey has been cancelled as of 2010 - not yet confirmed

Statistics Canada. Workplace and employee survey (WES) - synthetic files, 2005: employee microdata file [computer file]. Ottawa, Ont.: Statistics Canada [producer]; Statistics Canada. Data Liberation Initiative [distributor], 2009-01

Access conditions and restrictions: 

University of Toronto faculty, students and staff, for academic research and teaching purposes only. See DLI licence