Tag Archives: employment

(348) Retail now Canada’s largest employment sector

Honeydale_Mall_ExteriorData from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey indicates that the largest group of working people in the country are in retail sales. That sector tends to offer low wages, little security or benefits and is frequently part time.  Unions are not really found in the retail sector, either.  This can hardly be a good development for living standards in Canada.  The decline of manufacturing in Ontario probably explains a good bit of this development, too.

This is how you feed suburban poverty.

StatsCan survey: retail jobs among most common and lowest paid   Toronto Star

Retail is Canada’s biggest employer cbc.ca video 2:18
The CBC seems intent on putting a good news spin on things in this clip.  Certainly, there are good and challenging and interesting and properly paying retail jobs.  They just aren’t the majority of retail jobs.

image: Honeydale Mall in Etobicoke, ON by Robloxian 56 via Wikimedia Commons

(314) Youth & work in Ontario

Newsboy_in_1905Tip stealing, outsourcing, illegal unpaid internships, low wages, unsafe conditions, harassment.  Young workers face these and other challenges here in Ontario too often.  Luckily, those same workers have a friend in Andrew Langille, a Toronto-based labour lawyer.  His website Youth and Work spells out his commitment to them.  The blog in particular is a worthy effort, full of deft and detailed discussion of the pressures facing young workers.  Youth and Work names and shames government officials, media outlets and all kinds of businesses that impose upon students, recent graduates and other young workers – often in clear contravention of employment law.  Mr. Langille has also posted a number of interviews on the site and they are educational, powerful reading.  This is no rusty sword in the fight against precarious employment, questionable business practices, low standards of living and exploitive tendencies.

Youth and work: a website about youths, workplace law, economics, labour markets, education, & public policy

image: Toronto newsboy selling Toronto Evening Telegram in 1905 via McCord Museum/Wikimedia Commons

(313) Internal economics

tumblr_mf8ygfCJsj1qc0pgeo1_1280Internships have become a fixture of the economy.  Asking around about the value of working without pay in order to get some real world currency with employers is to solicit decidedly mixed responses.  Descriptors range from “worthless” to “depressing” and “annoying bullshit” to “it saved my life”.  Where is the truth we might wonder at a time when the employment prospects for youth seem as difficult as ever?  We are told with religious certainty that maximum education is required for success in the new workplace and being an intern is therefore to be embraced.  Young people often serve more than one and yet the internship, for many, is just another stretch on the road to nowhere, a feature of underemployment and poverty.

The downside of interning has struggled to emerge within the story of work and employment as it has come to be known since the 1980s.  The mythology of internship remains strong, in part, because there are success stories.  So, what of the time-wasting, depressing, free-lunch-for-business critique of interning?  Well, it’s becoming especially important now that legalistic arguments are being advanced that large-scale use of interns may actually be illegal, not just morally iffy, but contrary to reasonable expectations of the social conduct of business and government?

Canada appears to be catching up to the States and the UK where the negative take on interning is a much more evolved and visible story, and has been for a while.  The University of Toronto Student Union spoke up this week on behalf of some 300,000 unpaid interns across the country in nearly every kind of industry, taking a position that such internships are exploitve.  UTSU’s letter to Ontario’s Minister of Labour received a mediocre response from that office and seems to have been pushed out of the media by the Boston attacks.

Letter to Yasir Naqvi from UTSU regarding unpaid internships

Coincidentally, a social media/brand management firm in British Columbia called HootSuite has been so embarrassed, in the online world in particular, at the backlash against its use of unpaid interns it has stopped the practice and going forward will pay interns.  Clearly, their interns have been doing something of monetary value and their lawyers must have told them there is merit, and therefore risk to HootSuite, in the argument that interning is illegal.

Unpaid HootSuite interns get back pay itworldcanada.com

The book Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy by Ross Perlin made a project of understanding internships in the United States and is brutal reading.  Perlin allows for the potential value of interning, offers numerous solutions but finds too many things wrong with the phenomenon for it to remain the way it is.  He sets out the scale, meaning and implications of what has become a social norm.

These are not your father’s internships Ross Perlin 2012 NYT opinion piece

Ross Perlin speaking at Google headquarters 2011 
58:17

In the UK we find an ongoing legal case in which a 24-year-old museum volunteer, Caitt Reilly, receiving a job seeker’s benefit was required to work without wages at a retail chain called Poundland, British equivalent of a dollar store.  Ms. Reilly is part of a challenge to the legislation requiring unpaid commerical work for social welfare benefits mounted in the courts.  Her example has stirred a large amount of emotion and the government was compelled to amend a bill in parliament to prevent back pay being given to those in unpaid-work-for-benefit situations like Ms. Reilly’s.
For many observers her case speaks to the miserable nature of the current coalition government steering the UK towards austerity and seeming to lack any other idea beyond cutbacks to public programs and lower taxes for the wealthy.

Poundland ruling ‘blows big hole’ through government work schemes
guardian.co.uk – see video, other links & comments section

International Lessons: youth unemployment in the global context
53-page .pdf version of a January 2013 report from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation which finds the UK comparing poorly to, yes, you guessed it, Germany when it comes to moving young people from education to employment.

image: Wikimedia Commons

(282) It’s more than poverty [Report]

UnemployedMarchThe hollowed out nature of many working lives in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area is the subject of a new report from McMaster University Social Sciences and the United Way.  Using Statistics Canada data, interviews and previous United Way research the authors delve into one of the major determinants of the quality of life in Ontario: precarious employment.  This should be a major embarrassment to the system.  Working people with serious intentions who do their part remain in poverty or in fear of poverty.  They work for cash, have intermittent, insecure employment arrangements in the form of limited hours of work, temporary and on-call status and a weak grip on wages let alone pensions and benefit plans.  Even university lecturers live this way.  The result is a depressing under-utilization of human capital and a reduction in the resilience of our society and a reduction in the standard of living.  Precarious employment places a negative slant on nearly all aspects of the individual’s life and these effects become manifest in the public realm.  The 120-page report is available at the link below in .pdf format.  If any single issue in the life of this province needs to be brought out of obscurity for clarification and remedy it is this one.  The Toronto Star devoted a good amount of space to the report with numerous personal profiles.  Other mainstream media outlets have covered the report but its release just before the mindless hype and over commentary driven by the Oscars may not have been such a hot idea.

It’s more than poverty: employment precarity and household well-being
via globeandmail.com

Insecure Jobs Destabilize Communities
United Way press release

Half of GTA and Hamilton workers in ‘precarious’ jobs
Toronto Star – see profiles link on left navigation

PEPSO: population and employment precarity in southern Ontario
research project

image: unemployed single men’s march in 1930s Toronto – via Wikimedia Commons

(270) Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio has taken its share of hits in the Great Recession.  One of the strategies businesses there have been taking to is moving lower paying jobs to the suburbs.  There’s more flexibility out there for leasing property, parking is cheap or free and the payroll taxes can be lower.  More prestigious, higher-paying jobs are staying downtown.

Downtown loses jobs, suburbs gaining. Recession amplified national trend: It’s often cheaper, more practical to move lower-paying jobs to the burbs
cincinnati.com

image: Rdikeman via Wikimedia Commons

(52) Crap jobs

A modest moment of truth and advocacy in the UK online press today.  How lovely, after all the recent idiocy over Murdoch, to be reminded such moments are possible.
A major HR industry figure in a western country has spoken some truth for the record.  Not a pleasant truth, no.  But surely the truth is a good place to start when assessing where it’s all going?  The only thing the chief economist for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development forgot to add to his description of younger people’s job prospects was “…and in the suburbs.”
Youngsters put off work by ‘crap’ jobs, says CIPD: Employers who moan that young people lack the right attitude for jobs should acknowledge that in many cases the roles they offer are “crap” and low paid Telegraph