12 March 2015

Work ain't what it was—it's worse

Work is getting worse. In any case, that's the tale told by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in its Employment Quality Index. The index measures three key areas of job satisfaction: the distribution of part-time vs. full-time jobs; self-employment vs. paid employment; and compensation for full-time jobs. It indicates job quality has been on an overall decline for 25 years.

Since the late 1980s, the number of part-time jobs has risen much faster than the number of full-time jobs; self-employment has risen faster than paid employment; and the number of low-paying jobs has risen faster than the number of mid-paying jobs, which in turn has risen faster than the number of high-paying jobs. In other words, a smaller portion of the labour force has higher bargaining power while a larger portion has reduced bargaining power. According to Benjamin Tal, the author of the report, “This is the main reason why the income gap is rising, which I believe is the number one economic, social issue facing the country in this decade.”

We have seen, over this same period, some of the most extraordinary technological progress in history. From an employment perspective, one wonders, what was the point? We might ask the same question of all the trade agreements we've signed. They, too, were supposed to lead us closer to the promised land. It seems we may have been doubly duped.

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