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Canadian Job Quality on the Slide

The quality of our experience while on the clock in this country is not good and getting worse.

So say economists at CIBC World Markets in a recently published report that paints a picture of decided discontent among Canada’s employed ranks. Indeed, this latest Canadian Employment Quality Index pegs the qualitative state of our employment at a record low.

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That’s because we’re doing more low-paying work — of both the self-employed and paid variety — than ever. And that’s because this branch of employment is growing more quickly than well-paying full-time work.

Over the year ending January 2015, the job-creation gap between low- and high-paying jobs widened. The number of low-paying full-time paid positions rose twice as fast as the number of high-paying jobs.

Economists looked at three key areas in their evaluation of employment quality:

  • the distribution of part- versus full-time jobs;
  • self- versus paid employment;
  • and the compensation ranking of full-time paid employment jobs in more than 100 industry groups.

The study’s results show a decline in all the measures, but it’s the first — the part-versus-full-time job gauge — that’s often regarded as the most important indicator of employment quality. On this front, the Index says the “damage caused to full-time employment during each recession was, in many ways, permanent.”

And that, says Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist for the CIBC and the report’s author, “is the real story.

“We lost a significant amount of quality in the ’90s and we were not able to recover it. So this isn’t cyclical or something we can change by simply playing with monetary policy.”

Instead, he says, Canada needs to fiddle with its educational and immigration policies, along with its approach to on-the-job training. “A lot of it has to do with the mismatch between the education system and the labour market’s requirements. Many people are highly educated — but in fields that aren’t needed.”

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