Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Future Is -- Retail

Statscan reports that, when it comes to employment in Canada, the future is in retailing.We no longer make things. We sell things that other people make. According to The Toronto Star:

“Retail salesperson” was ranked as the most common occupation for both women (4.7 per cent) and men (3.3 per cent), according to the survey.

The retail sector boasted 1.9 million workers, representing 11.5 per cent of the country’s workforce, overtaking manufacturing as the largest field of employment for Canadians.

Manufacturing, which in 2006 employed 11.8 per cent of Canadian workers, dropped to third place at 9.2 per cent. Health care and social assistance sectors now run a close second to retail at 11.4 per cent, according to the survey.

Unfortunately, retailing provides the most precarious kind of employment. Armine Yalnizyan of The Centre for Policy Alternatives says:

“The more our economic recovery and growth is based on a sector known for its low wages and for ignoring pensions and benefits, the more fragile the recovery is,”

“To the extent that we are now largely reliant on one of the sectors that is most likely to treat workers as disposable, this is a cautionary note,”

And, as wages fall, Canadians go into debt to pay their bills:

Jonathan Hunter, 47, says he’s lucky he doesn’t have a family because he doesn’t know how he would support one on his retail wages.

“I make enough to live on, but I don’t have any kids,” said the shoe repair store clerk. “If I did, that would be a problem.”

Hunter, who has worked in retail for most of his life, says he hasn’t seen the dentist in years because benefits in his line of work are rare.

Jessica Clausen, 24, sells men’s shirts on Yonge St. for $10.25 an hour, but still clings to the hope of becoming a Broadway star. The drama school graduate has been working in retail for several years while she dabbles in community theatre and waits for her big break.

“My job title is actor, which means I work in retail,” she said, with a laugh.

A report on unstable work and household wellbeing released in February found that barely half of Toronto and Hamilton-area workers have permanent, full-time work with benefits. As a result, these workers experience increased household stress and limited ability to participate in their communities, said the report by McMaster University and United Way Toronto

“Retail is often a place-holder for university students who can’t find work in their field, but they often never escape because there is nothing to move on to,” said the report’s author Wayne Lewchuk, a labour and economics professor at McMaster University.
“For others who were turfed out of good jobs, it’s the only place they can go,” he said.

Jim Flaherty says that the reason Canadians on EI are being forced off the rolls is because there is no such thing as a bad job. You'd expect the man who has had a hand in building this brave new world to say that.


Lorne said...

When I read the story over my morning coffee, Owen, all I could think of is how damning an indictment it is of a government that pretends to be a more than competent manager of the economy. This story amply demonstrates otherwise.

Owen Gray said...

This is a government which rails about public debt but encourages the private debt which caused the 2008 meltdown, Lorne.

There's a word to describe this kind of thing -- stupidity.

The Mound of Sound said...

When are we going to accept that the price of globalization has been to transfer economic and political power to the rentier class, gutting the middle class?

We're in a race to the bottom, the good jobs gone, the remaining sales jobs leaving paycheques so deflated that we must chase ever cheaper products manufactured abroad by companies often owned by our own rentiers?

If someone wants to sell $100-running shoes in Canada they should be made in Canada by someone earning $25 an hour plus benefits. We're 35-million people, more than ample to support our own manufacturing base. We still make cars, don't we? Yes prices may go up, a bit, but not as much as wage rates will be rehabilitated.

I think there are forces at play today - economic, environmental, and geo-political - that will bring great pressures on globalization over the next decade.

Political and social stability, two key factors that have largely been considered irrelevant to global commerce, are nonetheless essential just as they're in decline world wide. A certain amount of upheaval can be accommodated by globalized industry but there is a threshold beyond which it collapses.

In my view, national self-sufficiency, not just in terms of food security, energy and other resources, but in the manufacture of products we need, will become essential. Or, we can stick with the status quo and fall down the rabbit hole.

Anonymous said...

My son is an, Electronics Engineer. He believes he over educated himself.

Harper permits China to bring over their own, $800 per month oil workers, to work the tar sands.

Harper's Omnibus Bill gives China permission to sue Canada if, anyone tries to block China's huge inroads into our country. Therefore, China was given the 200 BC mine jobs, BC miners had applied for.

Then Harper's FIPPA deal with China means, China will be in Canada for a minimum, of 31 years. China will take the timber and mines, on Vancouver Island. Harper is bringing China, into the rich resources of the High Arctic.

I signed the petition, against Harper's FIPPA deal with China.

Owen Gray said...

The Harperites are oblivious to the lessons of 2008, Mound. When wealth gets sucked to the top of the pyramid, the economy collapses from the bottom.

It happened in the '30s, and it happened five years ago. These guys are doomed to repeat history.

Owen Gray said...

As you should have, Anon. Harper's trade deals are about protecting investors. They're not about helping workers.

That was made abundantly clear when Harper did nothing to protect the jobs at Electro-motive in London, Ontario.

The Harper government had invested in the plant. But Caterpillar moved the jobs to Indiana -- without any penalty.

Lots of highly skilled trades people lost their jobs.