By Raneem Al-Ozzi
Young Canadians should get used to short-term employment and career changes, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Oct. 22. He said his government must focus on preparing for a future where both are normal.
Morneau’s remarks were reported after a meeting of the federal Liberal Party’s Ontario wing in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Aura Huq, a fourth-year accounting student at Ryerson, has been working at a McDonald’s for six years. She said her job has not prepared her for future employment.
“I want to get a better job that will also help me in my area of study. It doesn’t feel like I have a stable income. It’s part-time, I’m a student, the timings don’t always work and so it doesn’t really help,” said Huq, 27.
Vasiliki Bednar, the chair of a federal panel on youth unemployment that started Oct. 10, said the nature of work has become more precarious. “People make more job transitions and are finding it increasingly difficult to get their foot out the door. They can’t get that first really important job because they lack the experience, and they can’t get the experience without a job, and so it goes on.”
Canada’s unemployment rate was seven per cent in September 2016. In August, youth unemployment sat at 13.2 per cent.
People don’t want to exploit youth by putting them through unpaid internships, but there are very few paid internships, and no transitions from graduating to entering the workforce, Bednar said.
Bednar said that although the panel has ideas, they want to hear from Canadians and do further research. The panel will submit an interim report by the end of the year and a final report to the federal labour minister by March.
Bednar added that the panel’s mandate is specific to youth, so it’s very keen on solving the precarity that comes along with racism, sexism, poverty and discrimination.
The same day the panel started, Ryerson researchers published a public health report which says precarious employment hurts the health of racialized and immigrant women.
The report, “A Public Health Crisis in the Making: The Health Impacts of Precarious Work on Racialized Refugee and Immigrant Women,” focuses on the experiences of 40 women with precarious jobs in personal services and the food sector. Precarious work refers to jobs that are part-time, temporary and often poorly paid. According to the report, immigrant women make up a growing proportion of employees who are precariously employed.
The report was produced by researchers in collaboration with Ryerson’s Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Community Services and Centre for Labour Management Relations.
“The purpose of this study is to give more texture and colour to the lives of racialized refugees and immigrant women,” said Winnie Ng, principal investigator on the report.
Participants in the study reported working multiple jobs and losing time, energy and pay while travelling between job sites. The report says participants spoke about working in unsafe situations, being stressed and having to choose between buying food and medicine when ill.
Many told researchers their weekly incomes added up to less than minimum wage and that if they missed work because of illness, they risked not having enough money and losing their job.
Besides health and safety risks, many participants reported facing a high degree of workplace discrimination, sexism, racism and harassment.
“The results from the report recognize that the more restrictive and the more confined women’s situations are, the less choices they have. This leads to vulnerability and more precarious working conditions which leads to more precarious health,” Ng said. She works with the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Community Services to connect academics and activists.
According to the report, Canadian research shows racialized and immigrant workers generally experience higher than average unemployment and underemployment rates.
Research for the report was conducted using community-based research methodology. Researchers trained participants to be community leaders who can now go out and talk to more women within their communities.
In November, a community launch will be held where the report will be translated into various languages and shared among the community, said Ng.
“It’s our way of breaking down the isolation, so we’re telling other women that they’re not alone in their experiences,” she added.
In addressing the well-being of female workers, the report makes many recommendations, some of which include: wage parity regardless of job status, and scheduling to allow stability.
Statistics Canada data from September shows the average Canadian female makes $24.03 per hour while the average Canadian male makes $27.54 per hour—a difference of about 13 per cent.
Marie Bountrogianni, an expert on immigration and unemployment at Ryerson and dean of The Chang School, encourages youth to put serious thought in starting their own businesses.
“Think of a product or idea that could inspire a start-up business and run with it. Take a risk—it could have a huge payoff,” she said in an email.
Bountrogianni said students should take advantage of services on campus that help people find jobs, like Magnet—a job search tool developed at Ryerson’s DMZ.
“Bridging programs are an excellent way for new Canadians to transfer their skills to the Canadian workforce,” said Bountrogianni.