Precarious work now invites a precarious future for Canada

No matter what economic indicators are used, you will be hard pressed to convince millennials that Canada is making a place for them in our work force.  For years we have witnessed our young people struggle in an economy that seems to be regressing for them instead of opening a path to milestones that flow from good employment like home ownership, marriage, and starting a family.

Today, a full 39 per cent of young Canadians are stuck in short-term jobs, or jobs without security or benefits. New Democrats have been listening to young people across the country on the subject of precarious employment for the last six months. This Forum, titled The Precarious Generation: Millennials Fight Back, mounted a national tour, stakeholder meetings and public consultations in 14 cities in 9 of the 10 provinces and 1 territory.

The Forum set out to challenge the notion of the lazy millennial and refocus the problem, including how governments could be doing more to support those who cobble together their living from numerous jobs, sometimes holding a number of these at the same time. 

The fact is that youth unemployment and under-employment have been plaguing the Canadian economy for years now. As for ‘lazy millennials’ there are always examples of worst case scenarios, just as there are best case scenarios, but we have to put those aside and focus on the mean or average to get a clear picture of the challenges this generation is facing.  And those challenges are considerable.

With the rise of precarious employment driving growing inequality, the future of an entire generation is threatened.  The problem isn’t limited to the service economy, since precarious work is on the rise in white collar ranks as well. Take the example of librarians or newly certified teachers who are getting stuck at entry level positions and not busting through to full-time positions.  Part of the problem can be pinned on higher learning institutions graduating more people than we require for these positions.

It is also important to note the problem isn’t limited to millennials.   The Law Commission of Ontario tell us that women, racialized persons, immigrants, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, older adults, and youth are all disproportionately represented in the ranks of the precariously employed.

The government can no longer ignore the challenges facing millions of Canadians who lack job security and basic benefits.  A number of options should be explored.  The type of national daycare program we promoted in the last election would help those precariously employed that are putting off having children.  Portable benefits could also make sense for individuals cobbling together a living and moving to the next best job a number of times as they establish themselves, but right now the government isn’t pursuing solutions.

Precarious work does not have to be a fact of life. New Democrats do not accept that temporary jobs, involuntary part-time or freelance work, continuous contract positions, unpaid internships, or jobs with no benefits, and no workplace pension, or job security are realities that we need to resign ourselves to. Tackling the rise of precarious work in the millennial generation is essential to fighting income inequality and building a fairer Canada.