Labour Day celebrations and challenges

Labour Day marks more than the winding down of summer or the last long weekend before the kids head back to school.  It is also a focal point for the important and difficult battles that were waged for labour rights that help define who we are as a country. 

While we have much to celebrate there is still a lot to do to get as many Canadians into good jobs as is possible.  Those are jobs with a wage that allows an individual to survive beyond the hardscrabble paycheck to paycheck existence.  They are jobs with reasonable pensions and benefit packages too.   Unfortunately, the trend in employment has been geared toward part-time work with little or nothing in the way of benefits or pensions.

If you think this is not the case, consider how Canada lost 18,000 full-time jobs between June and July of this year.  In addition to that, 75% of the jobs created over the past year have been part-time which indicates how much there is to do - especially for young people who need help the most.

It is a fact that young Canadians are not entering the job market in ways they would expect.  Without good jobs it is difficult to plan for a future that includes things many of us take for granted like houses or starting a family.  This doesn’t affect them alone - Canada's future prosperity also hangs in the balance.   Without a strong commitment from the government, the next generation could fall behind and the Conservatives have no idea of how to stimulate the economy beyond trade deals that produce uneven results.

In addition to disappointing job creation results, the Conservatives have turned Employment insurance into a revenue generating tool that forces individuals to replace lost employment with sub-standard and distant options if nothing appropriate or local can fill the gap almost immediately.  The new hurry-up approach for Employment Insurance is only feeding the cycle of underpaid employment when it forces individuals to abandon their fields or specialties in order to accept lower paying jobs that can be quite far from where an individual resides.

Worse, it appears that the new EI rules are contributing to the problem.  There were 3 million underemployed workers this July which is the same as it was last year and the year before as well. In addition to that, a full one million of these were young workers between the ages of 15 and 24.  While the overall underemployment rate for Canada is pegged at 15.1% it is a whopping 29.3% for young workers.   The new EI regime hasn’t budged that glaring stat.

The challenge is clear, we have to find ways to get our young people working in jobs that pay enough, hopefully match their skill sets, and can validate the expensive educations that many of these individuals have acquired.  It is true that we have worked our way past many problems on the labour front. Child labour is largely a thing of the past, equal pay is accepted in principle and slowly becoming a reality, and workplace health and safety has improved significantly as well.  What remains is finding a way to overcome the challenges that face young Canadians and those who are still looking to replace the good full-time jobs that were shed in the last recession and never really replaced.  That is what we should be considering this Labour Day.