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The Worst American Tech Employees Are 57% More Expensive Than Canada’s Top-Notch

Canada’s Top Notch Tech Employees Are 57% Cheaper Than The Worst Americans

Politicians keep saying the influx of US tech companies is due to Canada’s “generous immigration policies.” However a new report from global commercial real estate mega firm CBRE shows this may have more to do with cheap, high quality labour. Canadian cities ranked amongst the highest for quality of employees, but also hit the bottom of the list for wages. This more than makes up for the high price of office space in these cities.

Canada Has Cheap Tech Labour

Canadians are high quality labour, and they’re incredibly cheap according to the report. Top notch education, and experienced employees pushed Toronto and Vancouver into the top ten under the quality score. Unfortunate for Canadians, Toronto and Vancouver are the bottom two for wages. Toronto and Vancouver skilled labour was even cheaper than the cities with the lowest quality tech labour – Oklahoma City, and Omaha. Let’s breakdown how the two cities did a little further.

Canada’s Top Notch Tech Employees Are 57% Cheaper Than The Worst Americans - Scatter Plot of Wages
Wages taken April 2017. Source: CBRE.


Toronto ranked sixth on the list of North American tech hubs. The labour pool has an estimated 212,500 tech employees, ranking it fourth by size. Annual gross rent came in at US$25.51/sqft, putting it in 21st place. Despite the high rent for companies, the low wages make it an extremely attractive option. The average annual wage for 250 tech employees works out to US$47,210 – making it 49th on the list for wages. Cheap employees and relatively cheap office space are a win for companies, not so much for people living there.


Vancouver ranked sixteenth on the list for North American tech hubs. The labour pool has an estimated 65,100 people, making it the 19th largest on the list. Annual gross rent for office space came in US$30.31/sqft, making it more expensive than Toronto. The annual tech employee wage was only US$45,501 per person, making it the worst paying city on the whole list. The low, low wages of their incredibly talented worker pool still makes it one of the most attractive markets.

Sure it’s a great deal for companies moving here, but not so great for people that live in Canada. Canada’s most expensive tech hub average, is 36% cheaper than the lowest quality tech employees in the US. It’s no surprise that Canadian cities remain amongst the top ranking for companies, because it appears they are taking the cost of their real estate out of their employee wages. Ouch.

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  • Reply
    C Lachapelle 7 months ago

    a little nitpick here. if Canada’s Top-Notch Tech Employees Are 57% Cheaper Than The Worst Americans then the sentence saying The cheapest American city has the average tech employee earning 57% more than Canadians is wrong. Mathematically that is a contradiction

    Americans make 100, Canadian 43 (57% cheaper) so Americans earn 32.5% more

    • Reply
      Dean 7 months ago

      Not quite, but a valid point. Americans make 100, Canadian 43 (57% cheaper), so Americans earn 132.5% more. Quite obvious really as 100 is more than 2 x 43. The math: (43 x 1.325 = 57), but (43 x 2.325 = 100)

    • Reply
      Winnie 7 months ago

      If you solved that problem in Oklahoma, you would have made 32.5% more than in Toronto.

  • Reply
    Dean 7 months ago

    Not quite, but a valid point. Americans make 100, Canadian 43 (57% cheaper), so Americans earn 132.5% more. Quite obvious really as 100 is more than 2 x 43. The math: (43 x 1.325 = 57), but (43 x 2.325 = 100)

  • Reply
    Jermee Lundigue 7 months ago

    First, the whole article is based on average salaries in two market with a bit different cultures (life work balance), with a different taxing and health insurance system. A software engineering graduate cannot be “top-notch” in either markets, and their entry level salaries cannot be used to make a point. If we were too much off than our US counterparts, there was not a single senior developer staying here and working for a local company. If you are a top-notch developer, you can get a top-notch salary even in Vancouver, above the US numbers, and even on par with the Silicon Valley. Having that said, there is a huge shortage and difficulty to find extremely good developers in Vancouver. The real problem is that not all local software engineers have on their agenda becoming top-notch developers. To become one (in any place in the world), there is an obvious clash with work life balance.

    • Reply
      Michael Zheng 7 months ago

      These aren’t top-notch by their proof of work. You might be the smartest person in the room, but I can only tell by your resume if you’re “top notch.” The method used is years of experience, and quality of education. They aren’t comparing Toronto’s cream of the crop to San Francisco’s. They’re comparing Toronto’s whole development community, vs other development community. This has nothing to do with the fact that some people are building WordPress sites, and some people are building AI.

      I work remote in Toronto for a SF based company. I have three years of experience, and my wages are cheap compared to locals in SF. However, they’re twice what my peers are making here with similar experience. Even if you look at the same companies, and years of experience – companies like IBM and AirBnB are paying Toronto locals almost half of what they’re paying in Cali.

  • Reply
    David 7 months ago

    Can confirm. Finished my masters at U of T in CS. Got a pretty good research job, asked one of my friends if he wanted a gig. He said the salary they’re offering is nothing compared to what he could be making in Beijing, so he’s going back.

    Canada isn’t a bad place, it’s just stagnant. People here would rather argue with each for saying the quality of life isn’t perfect, rather than realize that everywhere else is making leaps and bounds of improvements compared to here. Canada isn’t degrading, it’s just not improving.

  • Reply
    David M. 7 months ago

    Don’t worry, it can get cheaper. The banks are outsourcing, and the government is looking to waive TFW pay scale requirements, so we can race to the bottom. God bless this country.

    • Reply
      Sam 7 months ago

      Yup. Biggest difference being to move to the US, they need to prove that you have a skill that is in short supply. In Canada, there’s basically no bar to import labour.

      Getting a job in San Francisco was one of the best moves I’ve ever made.

  • Reply
    Nick papagorgio 7 months ago

    Companies in Canada are not willing to pay top-notch salaries for CS in Canada, and the Government’s policies are absolutely not helping with this. Canada will never be a successful tech hub until the attitudes of companies in Canada change with regard to the salaries / perks they offer to attract/retain/develop talent.

    A perfect example of this can be seen with the government’s recent decision to speedup permit processing for foreign high-skilled workers.

    Very indicative of the attitude of Canadian employers and the government.

    • Reply
      Nick's Right 7 months ago

      The biggest part about this that annoys me is they’re trying to remove the wage study that ensures they have to be paid 10% more than the typical employee would make. They’re essentially forcing us tech workers to compete with developing wages.

      This was a heck of a bait and switch by the Liberals, or rather journalists didn’t ask enough questions at the time.

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