LinkedIn data reveals Ontario's small businesses may be primed for international trade

International trade is a vital driver of Ontario's economy, with exports accounting for 36 percent of its GDP. Today, we’re launching the first report of its kind  ‘Understanding Trade Through International Connections’ in partnership with the Ministry of International Trade (MIT), which aims to help inform Ontario’s trade strategies that focus on deepening its footprint in international markets and creating new avenues for economic opportunity.

This report unveils new insights gleaned from the global connectivity data of LinkedIn’s nearly 5 million Ontario members and marks the next milestone for the LinkedIn Economic Graph in Canada, which launched its first report in 2015 and has since released research in Ottawa, Vancouver, and Toronto. This project with MIT represents a key expansion of the Economic Graph’s applicability to new fields.

“Through Ontario’s Global Trade Strategy, our province has taken concrete steps to promote the global diversification of our goods and services. Our partnership with LinkedIn not only builds on one of the strategy’s main priorities of driving better intelligence for better results, it exemplifies how private and public sectors can work together with big data to better connect people to opportunities. While Canada is a trading nation, this work is driven by our view that Ontario should be a leader in international trade,” said Hon. Michael Chan, Minister of International Trade, Ontario.

The report reveals new opportunities for Ontario’s policymakers and businesses to improve ties with high affinity – but underutilized – global trading partners, capitalize on existing employee relationships across business functions, and better leverage industry strengths.

Top findings include:

Small and medium sized businesses are leading the way in international connectivity. Employees of Ontario’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are highly connected, even when compared to employees of large firms. This is true across many industries, but especially so when it comes to Energy & Mining, Transportation & Logistics, and Healthcare.

This data underscores the major runway available for small and medium-sized businesses to more aggressively pursue export – or import – opportunities. Global trade shouldn’t be perceived as a strategy relegated solely to large enterprises.

Ontario's international connections support a host of diverse industries. Many of the province’s industries are globally connected, especially when it comes to Software & IT, Energy & Mining, Manufacturing, Transportation & Logistics, and Agriculture.

Global connections go beyond roles that have a business development function. It’s clear that Ontario businesses have a rich opportunity to tap into the global networks of their employees – particularly when it comes to research, engineering, IT and consulting functions, who tend to have the largest percentage of international connections. All organizations, regardless of size, should be paying closer attention to the global connectivity of their workforce and taking steps to understand how these relationships can be better harnessed to tackle new markets and drive business growth.

There’s marked potential to grow trade with new international markets.Our research reveals that, compared to other provinces and states in Canada and the US, Ontario ranks the second highest in international connectivity, surpassed only by British Columbia.

Middle Eastern countries, Brazil, Australia, Ireland and Nigeria show high connectivity, but lower trade value, indicating the potential to better leverage these connections to facilitate trade promotion. The report also reveals a relatively high trade value, but low connectivity in ASEAN, East Asia and Latin America, suggesting an opportunity to grow trade in these emerging markets, particularly as they continue to experience rapid economic growth.

This research has been able to shed new light on Ontario’s workforce, its global connectivity,  and the markets and business sectors that offer potential for expanding the province’s trade relationships. We look forward to continuing this work with MIT and the opportunity it provides to create greater economic opportunity for Ontarians.

Stay tuned for more to come on this project. In the meantime, you can learn more by reading the full report here.


All data examined was at an aggregate level and no access to member-level data was provided. Connections are defined as first degree connections on LinkedIn. Small businesses are those with 1-50 employees, medium with 51-500 employees, and large enterprises 501+ employees. Industry-level analyses reference the industry of the Ontario member.

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