November 30, 2016 4:43 pm

How you can find Canada’s best jobs in a declining market

Quality of employment opportunities in Canada is on the decline, a new report finds. Here are some tips to keep your career afloat.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

The quality of jobs available to Canadians has steadily declined over the last 20 years, and it’s leaving the country vulnerable to economic shocks, a new report warns.

Examining data from Statistics Canada, the CIBC report provides a gloomy outlook on the state of jobs and wages in Canada.

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“The share of low-paying jobs in Canada has been on the rise in the past two decades and might provide some insights on the ability of workers, in aggregate, to absorb future economic shocks,” Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist, CIBC Capital Markets, wrote.

The average wage in Canada is about $25 an hour, the report states, but 61 per cent of Canadians are making less than that.

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“Lower quality employment might help explain the sluggish growth in personal income,” said Tal.

Wages have fallen flat in Canada, while part-time and low-paying jobs are taking up a larger share of the job market. So what are Canadians to do?

WATCH: Canada’s bleak economic outlook tied to record job losses and high trade deficit 

Look to careers of the future

The younger generations can forget about following in their parents’ footsteps. Canada’s job market is quickly changing, and workers must evolve to keep up.

“Don’t look at where your parents got jobs, and those sectors that paid well,” said Eddy Ng, professor and F.C. Manning Chair in Economics and Business at Dalhousie University.

READ MORE: The top eight careers of the future in Canada

He recommends looking to labour market forecasts not just in your province or territory, but also in the U.S. and overseas, to see which occupations are projected to be in demand.

“A lot of the time we just focus on what the Canadian job market looks like … a lot of [countries] have influence on our job growth.”

A June report from the University of Toronto’s Brookfield Institute stated that “nearly 42 per cent of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of being affected by automation in the next decade or two.”

“The jobs least at risk appear to rely on humans’ cognitive advantage over technology,” the report states.

The five jobs projected to be most at risk:

  • Retail salesperson
  • Administrative assistants
  • Food counter attendants and kitchen helpers
  • Cashiers
  • Transport truck drivers

The five jobs estimated to be at lowest risk:

  • Retail and wholesale trade managers
  • Registered nurses
  • Elementary and kindergarten teachers
  • Early childhood educators and assistants
  • Secondary school teachers

According to, the top five careers of the future are: teacher, information security analyst, market research analyst, construction manager, lawyer.

WATCH: Job search tips

Train for a new career

Workers — even those getting on in their careers — must be willing to get new training or certification to keep on collecting a paycheque.

“There is little job security these days, so one has to be prepared at all times for a transition to a new employer, job or even field,” Sean Lyons, associate professor in the College of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph told Global News last year.

READ MORE: Canadian wage gap narrows with education

An analysis of 7,000,000 work histories found in the Workopolis resumes database found that job hopping is increasing. If such trends continue, the report said, Canadians can expect to hold 15 different jobs over their careers.

As jobs are swallowed up or made obsolete by technology or globalization trends, accept that a career change may be the only way.

“People think, ‘Oh, I can’t switch jobs in my forties or fifties,” said Ng. “It might have been in the past, you go into a line of work and that’s your line of work. But now people switch careers during their midlife.”

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Be willing to move

People need to get real about what jobs are available in their local economy. If your heart is set on a certain career, go where the work is.

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If you want to work in tech, move to Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo region, Ng said. If you want to work in finance, head to Toronto. Pining to work in the movie industry? Go to Vancouver.

“A lot of people just want to stay within their geographical regions,” said Ng. “Have a willingness to be mobile across other parts of the country.”

WATCH: Education, training key to tackling Millenial ‘job churn’: Morneau 

Encourage small business growth

Self-employment is a growing area of the job market, often prompted by lack of opportunities. Provincial governments need to foster such ingenuity, said Ng, and businesses need at least three to five years to really get off the ground.

“There’s no shortage of great ideas from Canadians,” said Ng. “What we need is government support and investment to make sure that those incubators, those little startups, get nourished until they get sustainable.”

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Allowing a small business (considered to be between one and 99 employees) to get to the point where it creates jobs for others is key for growth. In 2015, small businesses employed 8.2 million Canadians, or 70.5 per cent of the private labour force.

Over the previous decade, the bulk of Canada’s job growth was due to small business.

“Small businesses were responsible for the vast majority (87.7 percent) of net employment change between 2005 and 2015 (1.2 million jobs),” a federal report states.

Canadians can help the efforts by supporting small businesses.

WATCH: Free book aims to help unemployed Calgarians manage their finances after job loss 

Keep your finances in check

While wages have stalled, consumer debt has surged thanks to rock-bottom interest rates.

Canadian households owed $1.94 trillion in the second quarter of 2016. Mortgage loans account for roughly 70 per cent of total debt, and lines of credit, personal loans and credit card debt have been increasing.

Low interest rates are intended to fuel spending, and boost the economy. The problem is, when interest rates rise, repayment costs also creep up, leaving some debt-stacked Canadians in trouble.

READ MORE: Canada’s hot jobs, and ones to avoid – experts offer their top picks

It’s more important than ever that Canadians keep a handle on their debt loads, said personal finance expert Kelley Keehn in a recent interview with Global News.

“We’re up at record debt levels,” said Keehn.

“We have a skewed vision in 2016 of what’s a ‘want’ and what’s a ‘need.'”

— With files from Global News

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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