Good job prospects improving in the GTA — but only for some, report finds

Posted on in Delivery System

TheStar.com – News/GTA
June 19, 2018.   By

The prospect of finding a good job in the GTA has improved overall since 2011 — but race, gender and a university education still determine your likelihood of landing one, a new report shows.

While unemployment fell and more workers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area were able to find stable jobs between 2011 and 2017, those without a university education saw no improvement in job security, according to a study of precarious work by United Way and McMaster University.

For racialized women, even those with a higher education failed to see an increase in secure employment — and those without a post-secondary degree continued to be the lowest paid in the region.

That, the study says, suggests the “adage that a rising tide will lift all boats proved to be false in Ontario.”

“The growth in jobs and the growth in secure employment, it was only a few groups in our society that really benefitted from that,” said McMaster labour and economics professor Wayne Lewchuk, one of the study’s lead researchers.

The GTA and Hamilton accounted for almost all of the employment growth in Ontario from 2011 to 2017, and its unemployment rate fell from 8 per cent to 6 per cent. But average weekly wages for all workers in the region only rose by 1 per cent when taking into account cost of living increases.

The latest study, being released Tuesday, builds on previous research conducted by the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario project that delved into precarious work and its impact on workers’ income and overall well being. In 2017, around 37 per cent of workers were precariously employed in the region, suggesting that “precarious employment has imprinted itself on the GTHA labour market,” according to the report.

Precarious work has also left a social imprint, the study found. Despite a growing economy, a third of all workers still reported poorer mental health in 2017, a slight increase from 2011. Some 40 per cent of workers reported feeling anxiety related to employment.

“For those who are precariously employed, they can’t get ahead or plan for their future,” said Daniele Zanotti, president and chief executive officer at United Way. “For the bulk of workers, what we’re seeing from this research is their well-being hasn’t improved with the economy.”

The study, entitled Getting Left Behind, is based on 2,000 individual phone surveys. It measured employment security in two ways: by looking at how many jobs are full-time permanent positions and by using a “precarity index” to measure job quality. The index includes factors like whether workers have access to benefits, are paid in cash, get paid if they miss a day’s work, and feel they are able to raise health and safety concerns without reprisal.

Michelynn Laflèche, United Way’s Vice President of Strategy, Research and Policy, said while some of those surveyed described having a permanent job, further questions revealed their role actually shared many characteristics of precarious employment — suggesting an erosion of job quality even for full-timers.

“It’s … an increase of lack of control over the conditions of work and a decrease in security,” she told the Star.

The study said despite economic growth, the job market has become increasingly polarized with economic recovery since the recession serving to “primarily help those who were already doing better.”

For example, white men and women with a university degree were least likely to report long periods of unemployment exceeding eight weeks, and were the only group to see an improvement in the prevalence of erratic scheduling in the workplace.

The report also found that in 2017, racialized women without a degree were six times more likely to be low-income than a white men with a degree — an increase from 2011 when they were four times more likely.

 

Salima Jaffer, 35, who is Canadian-born of East African background, has a Master’s degree in education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and worked for almost four years as a teacher and community development in Africa and the United Kingdom before returning to Toronto in 2013.

But since then, she has struggled to find a full-time job that matches her experience and education. Apart from 18-months in a permanent position where the pay was low and the work was “not a good fit,” Jaffer has had to settle for a string of contract positions in the non-profit sector.

“I came back to Canada expecting better,” she said, noting her immigrant parents had a much easier time getting established in the 1980s.

“The contracts have been really interesting and it’s wonderful having so many different experiences, but it would also be quite a relief not to be job hunting year after year,” Jaffer said.

“It makes me feel a bit insecure about what the future holds,” she added. “I have high hopes. But I worry long-term about things like retirement or even putting my daughter through university or college or whatever she decides to do.”

Last year, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government updated the province’s employment and labour laws to include more protection for precarious workers, including equal pay for temp agency and part-time workers and two paid sick days for all employees. The legislation, Bill 148, also raised the minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 in January and promised another jump to $15 in 2019.

Incoming Conservative premier Doug Ford has said he will freeze the increase at $14 but has not yet said whether his government will keep the rest of Bill 148 intact.

The study makes several recommendations to improve job quality in the province, including bolstering employment protections for precarious workers and creating a “floor of basic income and social supports.” It also stressed the need to address racism and discrimination in the labour market.

“We have to spend some time naming that, understanding that, and then figuring what the right actions are around that,” said Laflèche.

“We cannot have people excluded from the labour market because of their postal code, the colour of their skin, or their gender. These are things that are out of their control.”

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/06/19/good-job-prospects-improving-in-the-gta-but-only-for-some-report-finds.html

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