Hot! Ontario at bottom for good jobs, social spending: Report

TheStar.com – News/GTA – While Ontario’s rich are getting richer, the province now has the highest proportion of minimum wage workers in the country — while social spending is now the lowest in Canada, according to a new report.
Nov 19 2015.   By: Sara Mojtehedzadeh, Work and Wealth reporter

Job seekers beware: if you’re looking for work in Ontario, hunker down for a long wait. And if you’re lucky enough to snag something, get ready to work for the bare minimum.

Ontario now boasts the highest proportion of minimum wage workers in Canada and one of the worst rates of long-term unemployment in the country, according to a new report by an anti-poverty coalition representing 90 community and labour organizations across the province.

“Today, Ontario has slid to the bottom of the country, or near it, on key labour force measures,” says the study by the Ontario Common Front.

At the same time, decades of cutbacks on social programs have left Ontarians with little insulation against an increasingly precarious job market — and left the province with the lowest levels of public service spending per capita in the entire country, the report finds.

The report shows that Ontarians now pay more for health-care expenses than any other province. Funding per student for post-secondary education is the lowest in the country. Wait times for affordable housing and long-term care are the longest nationwide, and child-care costs are the highest.

Natalie Mehra, the study’s author and director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said the rollbacks have “body checked” Ontarians at a time when changes to the economy and job market are leaving more people in need of social support.  “It’s terrible policy and it’s devastating,” she said.

According to the study, the province has lost almost 318,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, resulting in a shift to typically low-wage, non-unionized work like retail jobs. Simultaneously, the report finds that almost 12 per cent of the Ontario workforce is now being paid minimum wage, currently set at $11.25. That’s the highest proportion in Canada, which has a national average of around 7 per cent.

Around one third of Ontario workers — or 1.7 million people — are now also considered low-wage, defined as making within $4 of the minimum wage.

“That’s an astonishing figure for Ontario, which is meant to be the economic engine of Canada,” said Sid Ryan, head of the Ontario Federation of Labour. The OFL co-ordinates the anti-poverty coalition that authored the report.
Dan Janssen, a 34-year-old baggage handler at Pearson Airport, says his workplace — one of the largest in Canada — is increasingly defined by poor wages and job insecurity.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot more part-time jobs at the airport and a lot more minimum wage jobs,” said the father to a four-month old baby.

“I had to work two jobs until I turned 30. For 11 years, I worked two jobs while working at the airport. One job should be enough. But unfortunately, in this day and age it doesn’t seem to be.”

While Ontarians are grappling with an increasingly precarious job market, many are also spending longer without any work at all. The average duration of unemployment in the province has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2009, and is now second only to Quebec, the report finds. Almost a quarter of unemployed Ontario workers have been out of work for six months or more.

Despite that, successive Ontario governments have “failed to adapt and act decisively” to stem growing income inequality, argues the report, entitled “Backslide: labour force restructuring, austerity and widening inequality in Ontario.”

Instead, it has made cuts to public services to the tune of $7 billion over the past five years. The province now has the lowest public-service funding per capita in Canada, at under $9,000 per person. Top spenders Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland all invest around $12,000 per person.

“This is the story of two worlds: one world in decline for millions of workers who earn middle-class incomes and lower, and one that is living high at the top,” the study says.

The report ends on a positive note, however, praising Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government for taking “some measures” to reverse the decades-long slide to precarious work and income inequality.

These include reducing child-poverty rates, increasing minimum wage and pegging it to inflation, and initiating a review of the province’s outdated employment and labour laws. Mehra said she welcomed the changes, but added that more action was needed to avert “a pretty serious crisis.”

“I think the government has set an agenda of social progress, but without any substance yet,” she said. “So I’m hoping we can start to fill things in.”

< http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/11/19/ontario-at-bottom-for-good-jobs-social-spending-report.html >

2 Comments

  1. Ontario’s high unemployment rates and low wages are considered to be the worst nation wide. Although a current plan is in the works, this issue has been ongoing throughout the province, and a “plan” is not a serious enough solution. In order to end this persistent crisis, action needs to be taken. A proposal to increase minimum wage to a substantial amount, thus providing people the opportunity to achieve an adequate standard of living is a good place to start. People would make enough money to be able to support themselves, relying less on social assistance and other services set in place to aid with the outcomes of poverty. Funding from the government is critical to this plan, and even though this suggestion could cost more up front, it could create drastic savings in the future. The liberal government has explained they will take “some measures” to decrease the inequalities, hopefully they will commit to the promises in their agenda to reverse the current damages in society.

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