VI. Who are Workers in Precarious Jobs?2017-03-03T18:35:40+00:00

Workers’ social location clearly intersects with form of work to result in an employment advantage or disadvantage for some groups of workers. In the analysis below, we provide an analysis of how precarious employment is unevenly distributed based on workers’ gender, immigration status, ethnicity, education and family status. Overall, you can see that precarious jobs are not distributed evenly throughout the labour force, with women, racialized women, recent immigrants, single parents and those with less than a high-school education much more likely to be in jobs which are insecure in some way (see Table 6.1). In the discussion that follows, graphs on the left hand side show the proportion of all workers in precarious jobs whereas graphs on the right hand side show the proportion of full-time permanent workers in precarious jobs.

Overall, it is clear that women are much more likely to be in precarious jobs than men (see Graph 6.1), although this gender disparity has remained relatively stable over the decade long period covered in this study. This trend relates primarily to women’s greater tendency to work in part-time and/or temporary forms of employment, which have more features of precariousness, than men’s. For some, engaging in part-time or temporary employment may be a strategy responding to the increased demands of child care which often fall to women. Even among full-time permanent workers, however, women are more likely to hold precarious jobs than men (see Graph 6.2): women are more likely to earn low wages (36.7% of women compared to 22.7% of men), to lack a pension plan (58.7% of women compared to 52.6% of men), and to work in small firms (23.5% of women compared to 19.6% of men). 

 

Single parents are also more likely than people in other family configurations to be in precarious jobs. This finding flows clearly from gender relations; single parents are much more likely to be women than men, and thus more likely to be in precarious jobs.

Although the effect of gender is most substantial, racialized workers tend to be slightly more likely to be in precarious jobs than their same-gender counterparts (see Graphs 6.3 & 6.4). In the period from 2002-2007 in particular, workers from Arab backgrounds were considerably more likely to hold precarious jobs. In part, this trend might reflect the overall increase in discrimination against those from Arab backgrounds as a result of the cultural discourses and practices related to race which emerged following the attacks on the World Trade Centre in September 2001. Among full-time permanent workers, members of racialized groups are more likely to earn low wages (22.9% compared to 14.0% for non-racialized workers). Racialized women are at a particular wage disadvantage, with a third of racialized women (33.2%) reporting low wages, compared to 18.7% of non-racialized women.  Low wages are also notably prevalent among workers from Chinese and Filipino backgrounds, with about a third of full-time, permanent employees in each of these racialized groups earning low wages.

Racialized workers are also less likely to work in unionized workplaces and less likely to have a pension plan. Four out of five racialized workers (79.9%) work in non-unionized workplaces, and almost half of racialized workers (47.1%) lack a pension plan (compared to the still high 68.4% non-racialized workers who work in non-unionized workplaces, and 42.0% who lack a pension plan). Workers from Chinese backgrounds are especially likely to lack both union coverage and pension plans compared to workers from other ethnic backgrounds. Although racialized workers are less likely to be employed in small firms overall, a gender analysis shows that racialized women are more likely to work in small firms, whereas racialized men are less likely to work in small firms.

In general, recent immigrants to Canada are more likely to be in precarious jobs; in 2008, 40.7% of immigrants who had been in Canada less than 10 years were in precarious work, compared to only 31.4% of workers who were Canadian born or who had immigrated 10 or more years ago. The integration of a gender analysis shows that women who have recently immigrated are more likely to be in precarious jobs than women who are not recent immigrants (see Graph 6.5), whereas for men the trend is less clear.  A notable finding is that the proportion of workers in precarious jobs is relatively consistent for non-immigrants and non-recent immigrants. In contrast, there is much more variation in the proportion of recent immigrants with precarious jobs over time. Although some of this result can be explained by the smaller sample size of recent immigrants, it also suggests that recent immigrants are more susceptible to fluctuations in the labour market than their more established counterparts. 


Women who have recently immigrated to Canada are especially likely to be in low wage jobs. Even among full-time permanent workers, almost half (46.6%) of women who have recently immigrated were working in low wage jobs. Women who have recently immigrated are also more likely to being working in a job with no pension; 60.9% of recent immigrant women report having no pension, compared to just over 40% of recent immigrant men, and non-recent or non-immigrant women and men.

There is also a clear relationship between level of education and being precariously employed in Ontario. As expected, those with lower levels of education are more likely to be in precarious jobs. Notably, the service sector and agricultural jobs most likely to be precarious are also those that require relatively low levels of education. Once again, however, even among those in full-time permanent jobs, those with lower levels of education are more likely to be in precarious forms of employment. Workers with less than a high school education are more likely to have each of the four indicators of precarious employment used in this analysis. For example, in 2008, 59.9% of those without a high school diploma made low wages, compared to only 13.8% of those with a university degree. Similarly, 77.5% of those without a high school diploma lack an employer pension plan, compared to 42.1% of those with a university degree.

Overall, these analyses show clear relationship between form of employment, socio-demographic characteristics and precarious jobs. Notably, however, even among full-time permanent employees, some groups of workers are more likely to be disadvantaged. Women, visible minority women, workers from Chinese backgrounds, recent immigrants – and especially recently immigrated women, and workers with lower levels of education are more likely to hold precarious jobs than others.

 

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