Overturning the Precarity Penalty

The Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario Research Alliance (PEPSO) released an important new report this past week. This mammoth study not only updates PEPSO’s detailed report published two years ago, it extends the analysis of precarity to the ways in which insecurity affects workers’ health, their families, and their children’s life chances. In the process, the report reveals the complex ways in which income and employment insecurity reinforce vulnerability and marginalization far beyond the workplace. The study is chock-a-block with insights and recommendations, many from the United States and Western Europe, for combatting precariousness.

As with the Workers’ Action Centre report released in March, many of the recommendations are explicitly aimed at the Ontario government’s review of the provincial Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act. The review comes in the wake of a decade and a half of profound transformation in Ontario’s industrial base and employment composition (see Kaylie Tiessen’s excellent 2014 CCPA-Ontario report for an overview). The long appreciation of the Canadian dollar punctuated by the 2008-09 recession ushered in falling output and employment in Ontario manufacturing and an expansion of low-productivity service-sector employment and self-employment. Fully 35% of employment growth since 2000 has occurred in sales and service occupations, in which the median hourly wage falls well below the low-wage threshold of two-thirds of the full-time median hourly wage earned by Ontario workers.
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