More than 50% of jobs in Toronto and Hamilton are unstable, temporary or part-time, according to a new report, It’s More than Poverty, released this week by the United Way and McMaster University. Based on interviews with more than 4,000 workers, the report documents the significant impact precarious work has on workers’ health, family well-being and community life.
The report confirms the realities that Workers’ Action Centre documented in our study Unpaid Wages, Unprotected Workers. Many of our members and low-wage workers across Ontario have been speaking out about the rise of temp, contract and unstable jobs. The report confirms these experiences, finding that that precarious work has increased by 50% in the last 20 years.
Precarious work and ESA violations
The report confirms what many workers who call our phone-line tell us – working in a precarious job makes it more difficult to speak out about violations at work. Nearly 1 in 4 workers reported that raising an issue about their rights at work would threaten their future employment. Precarious workers were also more likely to face unpaid wages and ESA violations.
Other key findings included:
- Precarious workers earn 46% less than those in secure work and rarely receive benefits
- Precarious work is found in every sector and at every income level, but its impacts are highest for those in low-income jobs
- 75% of newcomers are in precarious work
- Uncertainty about work and income has a negative impact on personal and family life, causes anxiety and stress, makes it difficult to fulfill household responsibilities, pay for school expenses and to get involved in the community
- 1 in 3 precarious workers who are in low-income jobs reported running out of money for food
Urgent need for action
The report highlights the urgent need for action by the provincial government to expand protection for workers to reflect the current realities of work. We believe that there are policy solutions to stem the growth of precarious work and to ensure those in unstable jobs in our communities can count on protection and decent wages.
WAC has outlined 5 priorities for action on good jobs:
- Increase the minimum wage
- Target employers that violate employment standards
- Ensure adequate resources for proactive enforcement of employment standards
- Update the ESA to create good jobs
- Equal protections for temporary foreign workers.
The report’s findings underscore the urgency to move forward on these ideas and to come together to ensure decent work for all workers in Ontario.
WAC members speak out:
I’m not surprised to hear these statistics. I see a lot of insecurity from my friends and acquaintances and in my own experience too. Last year I worked two temporary jobs. A lot of people go through lay-offs – the business sends people home, and then calls them again.
People are working multiple part-time jobs because it’s so hard to find a full time job. It’s very stressful – you have to coordinate your schedule to fit the jobs. It’s not that you are making more money. You are working more hours for the same wages as full-time but with more strain on your health. There are no benefits and no pensions. When I first came to Canada 13 years ago, it was better and it has become worse.
When you are self-employed like me, there is sometimes even greater insecurity. There are no benefits, no security, you don’t know when you will have clients – you don’t have control. There is no vacation or sick days. In times when it is slow – you worry about how you are going to survive. You end up not going on vacation – then the worry and stress burns you out. We need more jobs that are permanent and full time.