Temporary, Insecure Employment Harms Canadians and Their Communities

The prevalence of precarious (or, temporary and insecure) employment is increasing in our society. This form of employment negatively impacts the workforce and hinders people from realizing their full potential within their employment and in their family and community lives. However, governments at all levels, and employers and workers in all sectors, can work together to make employment more secure and reduce the negative effects of precarious employment.

McMaster Researcher


 Lewchuk, W., Lafleche, M., Procyk, S., Cook, C., Dyson, D., Goldring, L., Lior, K., Meisner, A., Shields, J., Tambureno, A., Viducis, P. (2015). The Precarity Penalty: Employment Precarity’s Impact on Individuals, Families and Communities and What to do about It. Retrieved fromhttp://pepso.ca/2015/05/21/new-report-launched/

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What is this research about?

Having secure employment, with benefits and a possible career path, is a key to escape poverty. However, precarious employment (employment with uncertainty, insecurity, and lack of control) has grown more rapidly than all other forms of employment since the 1980s. People in precarious employment are often not unionized and work in temporary contract jobs that have irregular hours, and lack supplemental health benefits and employment pension. Furthermore, employers have less incentive to train these temporary workers, thereby decreasing the likelihood of these workers advancing their careers. The aims of this research are to:

  • Assess labour market trends since 2011.
  • Examine the social impacts of precarious employment, with an emphasis on how these effects are experienced by people with different levels of income.
  • Recommend strategies to reduce the prevalence and depth of precarious employment and minimize its negative effects on households and communities.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers examined the employment conditions in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area by collecting 4193 surveys, conducting 28 interviews, and reviewing policy initiatives related to precarious employment.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that:

  • Workers in insecure employment are less likely to have access to any on-the-job training. This may trap them in poverty-wage jobs.
  • Less than half of the survey participants reported being employed in a permanent full time job with benefits beyond a salary.
  • Racialized workers and foreign-born workers face great discrimination in finding secure, high-paying employment. They still face discrimination in accessing training, socializing, and sustaining healthy households even when they find secure employment.
  • Barriers to accessing childcare for these families also limit their chance of finding good employment and the ability of both parents to work for pay.
  • Workers who have insecure employment are more likely to be socially isolated and are less likely to vote than those who have secure employment.

To address these issues, we should focus on:

  1. Building a dynamic labour market that supports workers in insecure employment. This involves strategies, such as creating a comprehensive plan that simultaneously focus on supporting job creation and assist job seekers, improving access to government-provided training that match the skills required for specific job openings, enabling more secure employment, and addressing discrimination in hiring, job retention, and advancement.
  2. Ensuring that jobs are a pathway to income and job security. This involves a re-examination of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 to keep pace with changes in the labour market, more attention to the amount of notice given to workers regarding their on-call shifts, and improvements in income security for workers with precarious jobs.  Furthermore, there should be more access to benefits for workers with insecure jobs and greater empowerment of workers to voice their concerns in the workplace.
  3. Enhancing social and community support for a new labour market. More access to community services, flexible quality childcare, opportunities for children and youth, and meaningful volunteer opportunities are required.

How can you use this research?

The nature of employment is changing not only in Canada, but also in many parts of the world. Therefore, it is crucial for everyone to acknowledge these changes and their negative impacts on the Canadian workforce and communities. This research is of interest to government agencies, employers, and employees who have insecure jobs.
A previous report in the PEPSO project, It’s More Than Poverty, has been extensively quoted on the floor of both the Ontario Legislature and the House of Commons. The findings from that report have been used by both the NDP and the Liberals to inform debate and to shape their respective platforms. The Liberal Party in Ontario acknowledged the important role that the PEPSO report played in helping to introduce Bill 18, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014. The report helped inform their decision to change the rules regarding the relationship between temporary agency workers and their employers.

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Research Impacts

Research contributes to the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act

January 5, 2016

The 2013 report It’s More Than Poverty helped bring the Ontario Government’s attention to the problem of precarious work. This report, together with the Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work report of the Law Commission of Ontario stimulated the government to introduce the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, designed to protect the province’s most vulnerable workers and to increase fairness for both employees and for businesses. The bill indexes future minimum wage adjustments to Ontario’s consumer price index and creates new rights and protections for workers employed through temporary employment agencies. It was passed in July 2014, as part of the Ontario government’s commitment to “invest in people, build modern infrastructure, and support a dynamic and innovative business climate” (Ministry of Labour, Ontario, News Release July 16, 2014)

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