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Key Research Findings

   It's More than Poverty (2013)

  1. Our labour market has changed dramatically in just a few short decades.
  • Job insecurity has been rising while stable employment has been eroding since the 1970s.
  • StatsCan data shows that precarious employment has increased by nearly 50% in the last 20 years.
  • Changes in the labour market have made it necessary for most families to have a second wage earner. Two income households have become the norm.
  • Labour laws, regulations and income security programs haven’t kept pace with changes in the labour market.
  • Wages have stagnated in low and middle income. Income distribution among Canadians today is at the same level as the 1920s — a time of severe inequality.
  1. Only sixty percent all workers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area today have stable, secure jobs.
  • In 2011 fifty percent of all working people were in jobs defined as permanent, full-time employment with benefits. (Table 4)
  • Another ten percent were in permanent part-time jobs, either by choice or in jobs with some measure of stability — like benefits, collective bargaining or certainty about working conditions. (Table 4)
  • These jobs define what we’re calling standard employment relationships — higher quality jobs that are disappearing.
  • People working in standard employment relationships are more secure. They are better able to support their families and plan for the future.
  • The trend of precarious employment was consistent across the region: the City of Toronto, Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Missaussauga, Peel and York. (Table 4)
  • Other key findings are:
    • Women are paid less than men in similar employment relationships. (Fig. 2)
    • People from racialized groups are paid less than white individuals in similar employment relationships. (Fig. 2)
  1. Everyone else is working in situations that can be called precarious.
  • Precarity is now found in sectors, in occupations, and in socio-economic groups that were previously immune to this form of employment.
  • Forty percent of workers are in non-standard employment relationships that are vulnerable or precarious. This includes part-time, contract and on-call positions; jobs without benefits; and jobs with uncertain futures. (Table 4)
  • Some of the characteristics that define jobs that are precarious include:
    • Insecurity — being paid in cash, not having paid sick days or being ineligible for Employment Insurance, pension, health and other benefits.
    • Uncertainty — not knowing your schedule, future hours or even whether your job will still be around in a year.
    • Lack of control — being unable to influence working conditions or not being able to raise health and safety concerns.
  • But the vulnerability too often created by precarious employment can destabilize individuals and undermine our communities.
  • About 75% of newcomers who have recently arrived are in precarious jobs. Only immigrants who arrived more than 20 years ago have the same level of security as Canadian-born workers. (Fig. 3 and Fig. 11)
  • Precarious employment is found in every region and every sector of the economy. (Region: Table 4 and Fig. 16, Sector: Fig. 15)
  1. Being precariously employed is worst when you’re living in low income — but it hurts everyone who experiences it.
  • Precarious employment is found at every income level. (Table 5)
  • It’s worst in low income. Insecurity makes it significantly more difficult for people to make ends meet. (Fig. 44)
  • People in low income who are precariously employed are twice as likely to run out of money for food than those in low income who have secure jobs. (Fig. 45)
  • But precarious employment has a negative impact on everyone who experiences it.
  • Regardless of income, uncertainty about work is a major barrier to planning for the future.
  • People in high income experience precariousness less than those in low and middle income.
  • High income families tend to have greater resources than others to help mitigate the negative effects of insecurity — but being precariously employed still has a harmful effect.
  1. The trend of growing precarious employment has a harmful effect.
  • The quality of your employment has a direct impact on your life outside of work.

Impact on Individuals

  • People who are precariously employed are delaying significant life plans — like whether to start a family — because they feel insecure about their employment and income. (Fig. 52)
  • People are finding it difficult to chart a clear and stable path early in their careers.
  • A lack of employer-provided skills training in precarious jobs limits professional development and creates barriers to advancement. (Fig. 31)

Impact on Families

  • Being precariously employed causes people in low and middle incomes to delay starting families. (Fig. 52)
  • Parents who are precariously employed find it difficult to make plans, schedule activities and spend time together as a family. (Figs. 41, 42, 43)
  • The stress and pressure of being precariously employed can lead to feelings of self doubt or cause tension among family members. (Fig. 41)
  • Low and middle income families who experience precarious employment find it more difficult than any other group to access adequate childcare. (Fig. 49)

Impact on Community

  • Being precariously employed makes it more difficult for people to make ongoing volunteer commitments. (Fig 58)
  • People in low and middle income with insecure employment are less likely than others in the same income bracket to donate to charities. (Fig. 54)
  • Across all income brackets, insecurity makes it less likely men will have friends to do things with. This is particularly pronounced in low and middle income. (Fig. 61)
  1. It doesn’t have to be this way.
  • For the first time, this report reveals disturbing trends that threaten to undermine the prosperity of our region and the social fabric of our communities.
  • Non-standard employment doesn’t have to be bad. With the right supports it could give employers flexibility and create a nimble labour market.
  • We must act to ensure that jobs are less precarious and provide more security.
  • A dual strategy of reducing precarious employment — while also mitigating its effects — will have a positive impact on individuals, families and communities.
  • We must ensure these issues are considered as we move forward.
  • It’s crucial that governments, employers and other stakeholders work together on this issue to develop a shared agenda for action.
  • There are questions that should guide our conversation:
    • How do we ensure jobs are a pathway to income and employment security?
    • How can we best support human capital development?
    • How do we enhance social supports for families and communities?
    • How do we ensure that newcomers, women and people from racialized communities are involved in this conversation and engaged in developing solutions?

Contact Us 

The Precarity Penalty (2015)

  1. This report reveals that many people can be trapped in precarious jobs that make it hard to build a stable, secure life.

    • Our research confirms that almost 60% of workers in the GTA-Hamilton region today are in stable, secure jobs. Everyone else is working in a situation with some degree of precarity (Figure 1).
    • Of those in stable, secure jobs 48.1% are in permanent full-time work with benefits and 8.2% are in permanent part-time employment).
    • Everyone else – 43.6% are working in some degree of precarious employment.
    • Not everyone with a precarious job is in a bad situation — but our research shows that people who are precariously employed experience penalties that others in stable, secure jobs don’t face.
    • Job security has a significant influence on a person’s life. Across all income levels, precarious jobs can create instability that threatens people’s wellbeing today — and their prospects for tomorrow.
    • In fact, people in middle income insecure jobs often have worse outcomes than those who earn less, but have more security. A middle income paycheck no longer buys you a ticket to stability if your job isn’t secure.
    • High income insecure families have better outcomes than those who are insecure in middle or low income — likely because they have the resources to offset the penalties associated with being in precarious jobs.
    • Things aren’t getting any better. Compared to our 2011 data, the percentage of people in temporary and contract work has increased by 17% in Toronto and by as much as 30% in Hamilton (Table 4).

    Many people in precarious jobs have a hard time moving into better opportunities.

    • There are a lot of factors that can create a cycle that’s difficult to escape for people who want to move out of precarious work.
    • Not having enough money to invest in a better future is a major concern. People with precarious jobs earn 51% less than those in stable, secure work and live in households with 38% lower income (Figure 14).
    • Despite making less money, people in precarious jobs are three times more likely to have to pay for their own training (Figure 37).
    • They have limited benefits like extended health or paid leave. In fact, only 8% of precarious workers have extended health benefits compared to 100% of secure workers (Figure 33).
    • Just 12% of precarious workers have pensions which their employers also contribute to — versus 85% of secure workers. (Figure 31)
    • Earning less money and having no choice but to pay out of their own pocket for these expenses makes it difficult to save and plan for the future.
    • But it isn’t just about making less money. Many precarious workers aren’t formally recognized as employees, and aren’t protected by the Employment Standards Act. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by their employers.
    • For example, those in precarious employment are 15% less likely to always be paid for work done, compared to those in secure employment (Figure 39).

    Precarious employment has a major impact on the wellbeing of individuals and their families.

    • The health and wellbeing of people in precarious jobs are suffering.
    • Workers in less secure low-income employment are more than twice as likely to report poorer mental health than those in more secure high-income employment (Figure 59).
    • People in precarious jobs report more challenges in keeping up with bills and keeping up with debt obligations compared to those in secure employment (Figures 72 and 73). They also report increased feelings of anxiety.
    • Those in less secure low-income employment were more than twice as likely to report that anxiety about their employment situation interferes with their personal or family life (Figure 66).
    • Families are hurting. Across all income levels, parents with insecure jobs tend to be less able than those who are secure to afford school supplies, clothing, and activities outside of school for their kids (Figures 80 and 82).
    • Childcare is a necessary service for any parent that works outside the home. But for parents who work irregular hours, finding childcare that can accommodate their schedule is often a barrier to finding and keeping work.
    • Half of workers in precarious employment said not having access to childcare limited their ability to work and 40% said that it limited their partner’s ability to work (Figure 85).
    • People in precarious jobs are putting off significant life choices like starting relationships or having children, because they’re uncertain about their employment situation (Figures 62 and 64)
    • They are more than twice as likely as those who are in secure employment to delay having children (Figure 64) and more than six times more likely to delay starting a relationship (Figure 62).
    • The uncertainty and anxiety associated with insecure employment increases social isolation by making it difficult to form and sustain friendships within and outside of work (Figures 98, 100-103, 105).

    Precarious employment is bad for everyone — but your race, gender and where you were born can make things worse.

    • White workers make up the majority of people in precarious jobs — but if you’re a racialized worker you’re disproportionately more likely to be in precarious employment.
    • Racialized workers are 42% more likely to be in precarious employment than white workers (Figure 7).
    • White workers who are women earn just 81% of what white workers who are men earn. The situation is even more bleak for racialized women, who earn just 61% of what white male workers earn (Figure 17).
    • Regardless of where they’re born, racialized workers are two to three times more likely to report discrimination is a barrier preventing them from getting jobs, keeping jobs and advancing in their careers (Figures 48, 51, 54).

    There are practical solutions that will give people in precarious jobs a pathway to more stability and security.

    • The changing labour market doesn’t have to be a bad thing. What we should be concerned about is the fact that these changes are hurting people.
    • Other jurisdictions like Denmark, Australia, and the European Union are taking action to give people in precarious jobs better protection and more options for building a good life.
    • In Denmark, a comprehensive policy system called ‘flexicurity’ is used to address employers’ needs for flexibility and workers’ needs for security at the same time. It includes flexible contracts, lifelong training and strong income security measures.
    • In Australia, minimum wage workers in precarious jobs earn 20% more than their secure counterparts — which helps to offset the penalties of not having benefits.
    • In the European Union, fixed-term workers have the right to parity of wages, benefits, and even working conditions. This means that employers can’t discriminate between secure and insecure workers in these areas.
    • There are both policy and practical steps we can take here at home to limit the penalties experienced by people in precarious jobs.
    1. We can build a dynamic labour market that supports workers in precarious employment.
    • All governments can build comprehensive and integrated workforce-development strategies that address the unique needs of those in workers in precarious employment.
    • All sectors can create a Canadian-based business case on how more secure employment can benefit their business objectives.
    • All sectors can assess how they can contribute in the effort to build awareness of discrimination in the labour market.
    1. We can ensure jobs are a pathway to income and employment security
    • The provincial government’s review of employment and labour standards can assess how employment standards enforcement can keep pace with the changing labour market.
    • Employers in all sectors and the provincial government can consider taking steps to better support workers’ needs relating to unexpected absences.
    1. We can enhance social and community supports for a new labour market.
    • Governments can develop flexible, accessible, affordable, high quality childcare to enable parents who are precariously employed to work.
    • The community services sector can adapt practices to meet the distinct needs of those in precarious employment.
    • Whether you’re in a precarious job by choice or by circumstance, it shouldn’t be a trap that you can’t escape. Taking action in these areas will help everyone be more stable and secure.