Two major recent studies – from Derek Burleton and his colleagues at Toronto-Dominion Bank, and from former senior federal government official Cliff Halliwell published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy – provide excellent overviews of recent developments in the Canadian job market, and an informed framework for thinking about our future skills needs.
This message seems to have finally got through to the Harper government. In a speech to the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce on November 14, Employment and Skills Development Minister Jason Kenney told employers to stop complaining and to stop relying excessively upon temporary workers. Instead, he said, employers should “put more skin in the game” by increasing wages in high-demand occupations and by investing more in the training of Canadians.
Having successfully lobbied the Conservative government to repeal the federal Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, Merit Canada now wants the Conservative government to enact what is ostensibly a “low-wage policy”. It’s an effort that threatens to drive down labour standards for all workers, erode wages, and imperil the long-term health of the construction industry.
On September 16th, Preston Manning published an article on the recent defeat of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) at the hands of the conservative Liberal-National coalition in the Globe and Mail. Left-wing governments destroy healthy economies, he told us, they 'binge' on stimulus spending, are soft on unions, govern badly and can’t manage environmental policy.
A new study by the Fraser Institute argues that introduction of anti-union “right to work” laws in Canada would boost manufacturing output and jobs. While they are right that these laws, which make dues payments voluntary, severely weaken unions, it is far from evident that unionization comes at the cost of poorer economic performance.
This is because collective bargaining has benefits for employers as well as for workers, and because collective bargaining outcomes reflect economic realities.
On Monday, Canadians from coast to coast will enjoy Labour Day, a last dash of sun (we hope) before the days quickly shorten and the leaves begin to transform.
Labour Day, of course, is much more than a statutory holiday; welcome time off at the turn of the season. It’s a day set aside to acknowledge the triumphs of worker’s rights and commemorate what has been achieved through the collective efforts of many generations of Canadians.
Last year the Metcalf Foundation released a report on working poverty in Toronto. It found that 113,000 people were living in working poverty in the Toronto region in 2005, a 42% increase from 2000. The report's findings indicate that people living in working poverty most commonly work in sales and service occupations; work comparable hours and weeks as the rest of the working population; are over-represented by immigrants; and are only slightly less-educated than the rest of the working age population.
Legislated employment standards are a cornerstone of a strong, healthy society, as well as a robust, thriving economy. They ensure that everyone who works earns a minimum wage for their labour, and that nobody is subjected to inhumane working conditions or unduly harsh treatment at the hands of their employer. It is because of employment standards that workers in Canada have the right to rest periods during and between shifts, to maximum work hours each day and week, to extra pay for working on public holidays, and to a couple of weeks of paid vacation every year. In short, employment standards are there to shield workers – especially non-union workers – against the natural tendency of the labour market to gravitate towards overwork and underpay.
Employer groups such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business insist that their members need continued access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program since Canada is experiencing an acute labour shortage, including a shortage of low-skilled workers.
That claim is highly dubious, and should be rejected by the federal government, which is now reviewing the program.
Coincidentally, perhaps, the most recent Statistics Canada numbers on job vacancies came out this morning. Compared to a year ago, there were 20,000 fewer job vacancies in Canada this April, and only 1.6% of all jobs were unfilled at the end of the month. Even in booming Alberta the ratio of unfilled jobs to total labour demand fell from 3.5% last April to 2.5% this April.
The Census — replaced by the National Household Survey in 2011 — is our key source of information for “visible minority” persons, best known as racialized persons (since race is a social rather than biological concept) and since “minorities” make up close to the majority of the population in the large urban centres of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
In 2011, one in five (19.1%) of all Canadians belonged to visible minority groups, up from one in six (16.2%) in 2006. Almost one quarter of young people age 20 to 24 belong to a visible minority group.