As each month comes to an end, we wait with baited breath to discover how many new jobs were created in the last thirty days. But Yogendra Shakya and Axelle Janczur write that the kind of jobs we create is just as -- if not more -- important than the number of jobs we create:
In the name of “free market” policies, Canada has seen a downward push on wages and a rise in unstable, temporary and unsafe jobs. These types of jobs are broadly referred to as “precarious work” or “non-standard employment” since they are marked by limited or no stability, benefits and protection.
Several studies have documented that precarious, non-standard jobs are rapidly growing in Canada, and that this trend negatively affects a substantial proportion of Canadians.
The Harper government is focused on establishing a neo-feudal relationship between employer and worker. And, to a very large extent, it is succeeding:
A recently released report by United Way Toronto and McMaster University, It’s More Than Poverty, found that 40 per cent of workers in the Greater Toronto Area-Hamilton region are in precarious types of employment. The Law Commission of Ontario’s recent report, Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work, has documented how lax employment standards and occupational health and safety regulations are making an increasing number of workers more vulnerable to bad working conditions and exploitation. Research also shows that immigrants, racialized people (“visible minorities”) and women tend to be overrepresented in these types of jobs.
The research has also shown that precarious work is unhealthy work:
Research findings about health impacts from precarious jobs are particularly concerning. Health impacts included immediate ailments such as debilitating workplace injuries as well as chronic concerns like ulcers, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Most did not have extended health and dental coverage or sick leave benefits. Study participants also mentioned that they often delay or forgo seeking health care because of having to juggle multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
And, as the government encourages unhealthy work, it cuts back on health care spending. What should be done?
The solutions and policy tools are at hand. In some cases, it is about more effective implementation or broadening existing policies (better enforcement of the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, specifically in sectors that rely heavily on “temp” jobs; expanding pay equity legislation; strengthening federal employment equity and adopting this at provincial levels; integrating robust anti-discrimination legislation in workplaces).
But the present government is adamantly opposed to using such policy tools. The only way to change policy is to change the government.