Under Doug Ford, Ontario is turning the clock back for labour

Posted on in Debates

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials
Sept. 3, 2018.   By

There’s little to celebrate this Labour Day in the wake of a new report that shows millennials feel anxious, depressed and even angry about their inability to secure full-time jobs in a world where precarious employment is increasingly the norm.

And who can blame them? Saddled with record-high student debt and struggling to find accommodation amid an affordable housing crisis, many in this generation see few opportunities to get ahead.

As reported by the Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh, the McMaster University survey of 1,189 employed millennials in the Hamilton, Ont., area paints a troubling picture of life for those born between 1982 and 1997.

According to the survey, precarious young workers are more likely to struggle financially, with eight in 10 earning less than $40,000 a year. More than a third have trouble covering basic living expenses and more than a half are concerned about meeting debt obligations. Fully a quarter have zero savings.

Shockingly, one in five of those precarious workers say they were not always paid for all the hours they worked — making them 10 times more likely to get short-changed than those in secure jobs.

As the report warns, “the economic reality for this generation is one of financial challenge and insecurity, an extended reliance on family, far higher tuition fees and post-student debt, and increasing income inequality.”

Condemned to part-time, contract and non-standard-hours work, these adults under age 35 are delaying major life decisions such as buying a car or a home, getting married or having children.

That hurts all of us. The longer millennials’ careers sit in neutral, the lower their lifetime earnings and the less tax they will pay. And that lowers the likelihood that this younger generation will be able to support the rest of us in our old age.

Without major structural and policy changes to our social safety net, employment and labour laws, the economic reality for this demographic will only worsen.

That’s one reason why January’s minimum wage increase to $14 and improvements to Ontario’s employment standards legislation are so important. And it is why Premier Doug Ford’s vow to cancel next January’s minimum wage hike to $15 and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s new campaign to kill the previous Liberal government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Job Act, are so wrong-headed.

Amid fears that an increase in the minimum wage would spark massive job loss, Ontario is enjoying the lowest unemployment rate in almost two decades at 5.4 per cent. And in Ontario’s hospitality industry, one of the sectors most affected by the minimum wage increase, predicted job losses turned into employment gains with more than 7,000 new positions created since January.

This confirms research that shows an increased minimum wage pumps more money into the economy, which in turn benefits everybody. Employers arguably have the most to gain through higher workplace morale, lower staff turnover and more productivity. Far from being a job-killer, a $15 minimum wage could bring even more prosperity.

In light of the job struggles facing millennials, Ontario also would be wise to ignore knee-jerk fear-mongering from the small-business lobby to throw out the Liberals’ well-researched new workplace legislation.

While not perfect, the new law represents the first serious attempt to address the increasing precariousness of employment in the 21st century.

Social policy reforms under the previous Liberal government, including plans to overhaul social assistance and a pilot project that was testing a new way to support low-wage, precarious workers through a basic income, should also continue.

Instead, the Ford government cut a planned 3-per-cent increase to social assistance in half and dumped the three-year basic income pilot project, just as the experiment was entering its second year, wiping out an important learning opportunity.

At a time when Ontario needs to tackle precarious employment head-on, Ford is taking us backwards. Younger workers are feeling the pinch today, but eventually we will all pay.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2018/09/03/under-doug-ford-ontario-is-turning-the-clock-back-for-labour.html

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