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The Progressive Economics Forum: Women’s Work

My mother says that when she graduated from high school in 1972, she had two occupational choices: nurse or teacher. Nurse and teacher are still the most popular choices for women entering the workforce. Statistics Canada said that more than 20% of all female university graduates in 2011 were teachers or nurses, unchanged from 1991.

Ontario’s Equal Pay Day got me thinking about women’s work, and the systemic reasons behind the stubborn pay gap. Aside from outright discrimination, occupational segregation and unpaid care demands contribute significantly to women’s lower wages.

Evan Soltas had an interesting piece for the American Equal (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: The Temporary Foreign Worker Program and labour solidarity

Yesterday, I took a look at the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and how it helps enforce labour discipline on all workers, and low-wage workers in particular. Today, I want to explore the migration side of the migrant worker equation. The context of migration not only makes it easier for employers to exploit TFWs, it also serves to obscure the common core of labour solidarity that should be at the basis of responses to the greater labour discipline that the TFWP enables.

The expansion of the TFWP and its increasing application to low-wage work has occurred alongside other changes (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: The Temporary Foreign Workers Program and labour market discipline

While it is a truism that migrant labour built Canada, this same migrant labour has long been used to discipline domestic workers. Both facts are imprinted into the history of Canada. Today is no different and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is at the centre of debates about migrant labour. Often missing from the debate are the deep links between labour policy, (im)migration policy and the ways these interact to undermine the power and solidarity of workers.

The TFWP has become a lightning rod of criticism as details emerge of the private sector hiring temporary foreign workers (TFWs) for (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: About those people without jobs …

Statistics Canada released their latest job vacancy data today, giving us the three month average ending in January 2014. There were 6.7 unemployed workers for every job vacancy, higher than the past two Januaries. Counting un(der)employed workers gives us a ratio of 14.2 un(der)employed workers for every job vacancy.

That’s a lot of workers without jobs.

The higher ratio is mostly because of a fall in the number of job vacancies reported by businesses. Breaking down job vacancies by province shows that the difference between 2014 and 2013 is mostly due to a fall in the number of (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: He-cession to She-precarious recovery?

As Armine has pointed out recently, women play a key role in economic recoveries: (She says it so well, I have to quote her directly:)

Every recession is a “he-cession”: men lose more jobs than women in a downturn because the first thing to slow is the production in goods-producing industries that are typically male-dominated (mining, forestry, construction, manufacturing). Every early stage of recovery is a “she-covery”: men who lose $30 an hour jobs wince at accepting $15 an hour offers, but women grab them to make sure the bills get paid.

This shows up in the underemployment rate, which (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Alex Usher on Jason Kenney’s Enthusiasm for German Apprenticeships

Alex Usher, one of Canada’s most well-known post-secondary education pundits, has just written a blog post offering some sober second thought on Minister Kenney’s recent enthusiasm for Germany’s apprenticeship system.

Mr. Usher’s blog post can be accessed here.

The Progressive Economics Forum: Where the jobs at?

Mark it in your calendars folks, today, March 25, 2014 is the day that the Canadian labour shortage** myth officially died. (It may, of course, be resurrected as a zombie).

Responding to a Parliamentary Budget Office report that refutes the existence of a labour shortage or skills mismatch in Canada, Jason Kenney claims the government never suggested any such thing.

Jason Kenney ‏on March 25th, 2014 “@kenneyjason 1/ We consistently say the aggregate labour market information indicates there is *not* a general labour shortage in Canada @globepolitics“

Except that Minister Finley repeatedly suggested that it was one of (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: How to calculate un(der)employment

For my day job, I wrote a thing about underemployment in Canada. I thought that it might be useful to post my method here so that other interested parties could calculate it for themselves.

The headline unemployment rate counts all those who are unemployed, available to start work, and actively looking for a job. The internationally accepted measure of the unmet need for employment includes those who are unemployed and adds those who are partially employed but want more hours, those who aren’t able to start work right away, and those who are discouraged from actively looking, but would accept (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: StatCan Reports Fewest Vacant Jobs on Record

Statistics Canada reported today that there were only 199,700 vacant jobs in December 2013, the fewest recorded since it first reported these figures for March 2011.

Statistics Canada began tracking job vacancies in response to claims of a labour shortage by governments and corporate Canada. But the number of vacancies falling below 200,000 casts further doubt on the notion that Canada is suffering from a shortage of workers.

The real problem is a shortage of jobs. Statistics Canada calculates that there are 6.3 unemployed workers per available job.

Policymakers should focus on creating jobs and providing adequate benefits to (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: IWD 2014: The “girl effect” reduces inequality, but Canada can’t coast on that much longer

Every year when International Women’s Day rolls by, I can’t help but reflect on power, how it’s shared, and how women use the power they have. This year, I am struck by women’s power to reduce inequality, and not just to help ourselves. Women are key to reducing income inequality.

It’s been dubbed the girl effect, more powerful than the Internet, science, the government, and even money.

Canada is actually a poster girl (sorry) for the truth that education and hard work can transform not just lives but societies.

Look around the world and you’ll see a tight relationship (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Young Workers Needed So Much More from Budget 2014

Recessions are always harder on young workers, but we are nearly five years out from the end of the last recession and there is still no recovery in sight for young workers.

Between October 2008 and January 2014, there was an increase of 100,000 unemployed young workers (15-29), so that there are now 540,000 unemployed young workers. Even more startling, over 350,000 young workers left the labour force over that period. It has been estimated that between 150,000 and 300,000 young workers participate in unpaid internships each year in Canada.

The paid internships announced in this budget (some of which (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada’s Job Market: Slower, Lower, Weaker

The following commentary on yesterday’s job numbers is quoted in today’s National Post (page FP4):

The Olympic motto may be “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” but Canada’s employment growth is slower, lower and weaker going into the winter games.

Of the 29,000 Canadians who supposedly gained employment in January, 28,000 reported being self-employed. Only 1,000 found jobs paid by an employer.

While self-employment includes some high-income professionals and entrepreneurs, the jump in self-employment in the context of a poor job market suggests that many Canadians are trying to eke out income through contract work because employers are not offering paid (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: 2013 Left Us Wanting More … Jobs

The December jobs report was a spectacular finish (not in a good way) to a rather discouraging year for the Canadian labour market. When the dust had settled, it turned out that employment growth averaged 8,500 per month in 2013, compared with 25,900 in 2012.

This anaemic job growth was not enough to keep up with the growth in the labour force, as on average, 10,500 new jobseekers entered the labour market each month in 2013. Even more disappointing, 80% of job growth over the year was in part-time work.

Young workers and men age 25-54 bore the brunt of the labour market slowdown. Only workers over 55 saw an (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Are Younger and Older Workers Fighting for Jobs?

There was a spate of media stories recently on a US report finding that increased employment of seniors has no negative impacts at all on young people also seeking work.

In fact, the study by leading US economist Alicia Munnell, looking mainly at the experience of US states, did say that the so-called “lump of labour” fallacy may be true when an economy is experiencing very high unemployment and extended stagnation. (p.5)

In Canada as a whole, the employment rate for all workers 15 and over was 61.8% in 2012, while it was 54.5% for young (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Fewer Jobs Without People In 2013

The most recent Jobs Vacancy statistics are out, and the trend for 2013 so far has been a reduction in the number of job vacancies reported by businesses compared to 2012. The number of job vacancies reported by businesses fell by 41,000 between September 2012 and September 2013, so that even though there were fewer unemployed workers in September 2013, there were more unemployed workers per job vacancy. This has been true for every month in 2013 so far.

 

Data for the Job Vacancy survey started to be collected in January 2011, but it’s released as a three-month rolling (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Harper Job Record in 2013

Further to Erin’s post, the Labour Force Survey numbers released by Statistics Canada on December 6 give the lie to the Harper government’s frequently heard claim that our economy is doing well.

Over the past year, between November, 2012 and November, 2013, ALL of the net new jobs created in Canada were in the lowest paid and most insecure occupational group, sales and service jobs.

There were just 172,400 new jobs created over this period. But sales and service employment rose by 191,700.

These jobs pay an average of just $16.50 per hour.

Reflecting that shift to lower quality (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: A Part-Time, Do-It-Yourself Job Market

Statistics Canada reported that employment grew by 22,000 in November. But 20,000 of those new jobs were part-time. The proportion of all Canadian jobs that are part-time rose to an even 19%.

Broken down another way, 19,000 of the employment increase were people reporting themselves as self-employed. Canadian employers actually hired fewer than 3,000 additional employees last month.

Part-time work and self-reported self-employment kept the official unemployment rate just under 7% for a third consecutive month, but hardly suggest a vibrant job market.

The longer-term trend is still that Canadian employers are creating barely enough jobs to keep pace (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: How Harper can avoid turning a Budget Implementation Bill into a Duffy budget bill

On November 25th, I made the following submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-4, Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2, on behalf of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

1. Introduction and Context

Thank you for the invitation to appear before the Committee, as Members of Parliament review the second budget implementation bill for the budget of 2013.

It is a particular honour to appear as a witness, since this committee will only hear eight hours of testimony from witnesses — including one hour from the Finance Minister — over (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Raise Wages, Train Workers

I have been hard on our new Employment and Social Development Minister, Jason Kenney, for buying into a widespread myth about labour shortages and skill mismatches in Canada. So, to give credit where credit is due, it appears Minister Kenney has been listening to the growing chorus of voices disputing the existence of a labour shortage in Canada.

Surprisingly (or not), Minister Kenney turns to a simple market solution to business complaints of difficulty finding candidates: raise wages. “The single most powerful tool employers have to address labour skill shortages is raising wage levels,” Kenney reportedly told his business audience. (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Job Market Stuck in a Rut

The words “little change” appear eight times in today’s Statistics Canada press release on the Labour Force Survey.

The figures for October are indeed remarkably similar to September. This lack of change might be viewed as welcome stability in better economic times, but it has to be regarded as stagnation given the actual state of Canada’s job market.

Unemployment remained at 1,325,000, exactly the same as in September and well above its pre-recession level.

And that official figure excludes hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have dropped out of the labour market altogether. The participation rate remained 66.4%, its (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Social Assistance in Canada

This week I am attending a conference entitled “Welfare Reform in Canada: Provincial Social Assistance in Comparative Perspective,” organized by Professor Daniel Béland.

The focus of the conference is “social assistance,” which typically encompasses both last-resort social assistance (i.e. ‘welfare’) and disability benefits. In Ontario, the former is known as Ontario Works and the latter as the Ontario Disability Support Program. Every Canadian province and territory has its own social assistance system—that is, its own legislation, its own policies and its own regulations. First Nations with self-government agreements have their own income assistance programs. (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: When a Lower Unemployment Rate is Bad News

Today, Statistics Canada reported an unemployment rate of 6.9% for September. One might have expected Canada’s unemployment rate falling below 7% for the first time since 2008 to be cause for celebration.

But as Statistics Canada noted, the decline in official unemployment reflected youth dropping out of the job market rather than any notable increase in employment. Of course, one would expect many young people to leave the job market as they return to school in September.

However, Statistics Canada adjusts the figures to factor out such routine changes. Today’s seasonally adjusted figures indicate that 21,000 more young Canadians (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: This is Not the Saskatchewan NDP’s Official Position

I have the following opinion piece in the latest (September 2013) edition of The Commonwealth, accompanied by this disclaimer: “The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the official position of the Saskatchewan NDP.”

Comparing the NDP and Sask. Party Employment Records

Right-wing politicians often win elections by presenting themselves as good economic managers. British Columbia’s provincial election was the latest example of how the right’s rhetorical focus on the economy can derail the NDP.

It also illustrated how simply being cautious and saying little about economic issues is an ineffective defence. New Democrats must challenge (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: The benefits of sick leave — and of absenteeism

Most of us know the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s why we’re told by teachers to keep our kids home from school when they’re sick, so they get better and they don’t get others sick as well. It’s why there’s increased focus on leading healthy lives, prevention and wellness.

However, the benefits of prevention seem to have been neglected in recent reports over the absenteeism in the workplace. Last week, Statistics Canada released a report showing that while public sector workers took more time off for sickness and family leave, most (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Black Day for EI in July

Today, Statistics Canada reported a large monthly drop of 10,900 for July in the number of Canadians receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. Its press release noted, “This decline brings the number of beneficiaries to a level similar to that observed before the start of the labour-market downturn in 2008.”

But the number of unemployed workers remains stuck at 1.4 million, far above the 1.1 million before the financial crisis. The federal government has cut EI to pre-recession levels even though the job market remains in recession.

The proportion of officially unemployed Canadians receiving EI is down (Read more…)