New figures: how old, diverse, and costly are GNWT workers?

A view of downtown Yellowknife from Pilot's Monument
A view of downtown Yellowknife, home to a range of territorial government offices.

How much does the public service in the Northwest Territories cost? How old are its staff? And how diverse is the workforce?

Those questions are answered in the newly published 2016-17 Public Service Annual Report, which wades into the data behind everyone who works for the public service in the NWT – that means the territorial government plus teachers at a range of school boards, health workers, and other arm’s-length agencies (like Aurora College or the Business Development Investment Corporation).

At the end of March 2017, the report says there were 5,175 public service workers in the NWT (around 12 percent of the territory’s population), spread across 21 different institutions.

The territorial government (GNWT) employed 2,757 people in its departments; the others were mostly teachers, healthcare workers, or working at agencies.



Three-quarters of public service workers were members of the Union of Northern Workers, while another nine percent were members of the NWT Teachers’ Association.

Regionally, 2,714 workers – just over half – were based in the North Slave. The South Slave held 16 percent, 14 percent were in the Beaufort Delta, seven percent in the Dehcho, and five percent each were Sahtu or Tłı̨chǫ-based workers.

Jobs and salaries

In total, all of those staff cost the Northwest Territories $488 million in annual salaries. Though a slightly simplistic calculation, dividing that salary figure by the total number of staff gives an average annual salary of roughly $94,300.

Pensions and healthcare cost a further $105 million, plus an additional $24 million on “other benefits”.



Want to get one of those jobs? It’s getting harder. As cutbacks bit, the public service hired fewer people in 2016-17 than in previous years. While 621 employees left their public service jobs in 2016-17, only 457 new employees were hired.

When it came to staffing appeals – which happen when someone feels they were overlooked for a position because of a procedural error – only five out of 67 such appeals were upheld.

Fewer than one percent of all public service staff in the Northwest Territories were aged 25 or younger. By comparison, 3.6 percent of Canada’s federal public servants were 24 or younger according to 2016 figures. The average NWT public service worker was 45 and had been a public servant for nine years.


Overall, 43 percent of the NWT’s public servants were Indigenous and 57 percent were not. Roughly two-thirds of public servants were women, though only 46 percent of 241 senior managers were female.

At the GNWT specifically, departments had 189 senior managers – 46 percent were Indigenous and 43 percent female.

Somewhat awkwardly, the Department of Lands had the fewest Indigenous staff among GNWT departments at the time of the survey in March 2017. Just 35 percent of the department’s staff was Indigenous. By comparison, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ staff was 60 percent Indigenous, and that figure rose to 71 percent at Human Resources.

Aurora College’s staff was 38 percent Indigenous.

Regionally, 36 percent of public servants in Yellowknife were Indigenous. In Behchokǫ̀ that figure rises to 67 percent; in Norman Wells, it is down to 32 percent.




The study also delved into turnover rates among the various departments and agencies, highlighting the high turnover experienced in northern teaching.

Virtually all of the public service divisions with the highest turnover rates were education councils.

The Sahtu Divisional Education Council (DEC) had a 28 percent turnover rate in 2016-17, followed by the territory’s francophone school board (25.9 percent), the South Slave DEC (21.2 percent), and the Beaufort Delta DEC (20.1 percent).

The exception was the Dehcho’s DEC at just 10 percent, alongside the education branch of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency at 6.8 percent.

The average turnover rate across all areas of the public service was 11.9 percent.

Figures in the report come from the GNWT’s internal Human Resource Information System as at March 31, 2017. Employees counted were those with indeterminate or term positions; workers on casual contracts were not included in the report.