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Precarious jobs on the rise in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

Precarious jobs are on the rise in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, according to a study released by McMaster University and United Way Toronto.
Precarious jobs are on the rise in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, according to a study released by McMaster University and United Way Toronto. File

TORONTO – Workers in precarious jobs are often caught in a cycle of lower wages, limited benefits and high levels of uncertainty, according to a new study released by McMaster University and United Way Toronto.

The report titled “The Precarity Penalty” is based on a survey of 4,193 workers aged 25-65 from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) conducted during 2014, and 28 interviews conducted during 2015.

The study found that as many as 44 per cent of working adults in the GTHA are in jobs with some level of precarity due to part-time, temporary and contract work, including self-employment.

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“The social consequences of these changes in our labour market will not only affect the ability of people to build stable and fulfilling lives, but it will threaten our region’s capacity to develop a competitive workforce,” said the report.

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The results of the survey also found that people in precarious jobs earn 51 per cent less than those in stable, secure work, and live in households with 38 per cent lower-income.

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The report states only 8 per cent of precarious workers have extended health benefits compared to 100 per cent of secure workers and that they are three times more likely to have to pay for their own training.

“Insecure employment is the fastest growing form of employment in Canada; we need to ensure that job security isn’t a barrier to building a stable life,” said the report’s co-author Wayne Lewchuk of McMaster University.

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Precarious workers also face a tough decision when it comes to juggling family life with twice as many likely to delay having children compared to those in secure employment.

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“Insecure employment can affect decisions related to starting a family and can introduce anxiety and financial stress into relationships and households,” said the report.

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“While these effects are most pronounced in low-income households, insecure employment also creates challenges in middle-income households.”

Insecure forms of employment currently represent one in five workers, an increase of nearly 60 per cent since 1989, according to the study.

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Although there are no easy solutions, the report recommends further government involvement to develop, review and address needs of workers in precarious employment.

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This includes getting private companies to embrace a “more stable, adaptable workforce” and to examine, test and implement changes to their employment practices.

“This may have costs in the short-term, but also many benefits for employers and the economy in the long-term,” said the report.

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