Decent jobs are possible, Good Jobs Summit economics panel says


While structural changes in the Canadian economy have made good jobs harder to find and led to fewer such jobs being created, change is possible, members of the Good Jobs Summit’s opening panel said.

“When I first started looking at the data, I thought it was cyclical, but it’s not,” Kaylie Tiessen, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ontario Economist, said of the rise is part-time and precarious work in recent years.

Tiessen was taking part in the opening panel discussion of this weekend’s Good Jobs Summit, which brought together some of Canada’s top economic thinkers to debate what is needed to create good jobs, especially for young people.

“The deck really is stacked against young Canadians,” said panellist Preet Banerjee, Personal Finance Columnist at the Globe and Mail, citing high debt levels for schooling, high housing costs and a tough job market.

Banerjee said the days of working for one company for an entire career, with a gold watch at the end, are over. Workers today, he said, are not interested in just one job for their entire life.

Tiessen said, however, that businesses have stopped training young workers, forcing young people to move from job to job before they can find anything stable.

Unifor Economist Jim Stanford said that perhaps business should be compelled to offer more training.

“We can’t let companies take the cheap way out of not training new workers, and then complain about the lack of skilled workers,” Stanford said.

The panellists agreed that there were ways governments could improve the job situation, but had different ideas of what would be best, with Tiessen and Stanford suggested one way for governments to help would be to boost the minimum wage.

“We need to make sure that the people who do have jobs are making enough money to get by, and can put that money back into the economy,” said Tiessen, adding higher wages help fuel the economy by boosting purchasing power. “We need to start talking about that side of the equation, too.”

ATB Financial Chief Economist Todd Hirsch said the government’s best move would to improve schooling in Canada, from kindergarten through to post-secondary education.

“If you’re going to invest in anything, invest in education,” he said.

Hirsch said investments in infrastructure would also not only create jobs now, but would set the stage for businesses to do well and create jobs over the long term.

In a question from the audience, Alastair Woods, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario, said he knows many people who work 40 hours a week or more in unpaid internships, afraid to say anything for fear that they’ll never work in that field again.

“All work deserves money,” he said.