Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

December 12, 2006 08:00 ET

CLC: More and More Canadians Working for Poverty Wages, New Report Finds

Growing poverty casts dark shadow on job creation growth in 2006

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 12, 2006) - A growing number of Canadians are stuck in jobs that don't earn enough to pay the rent and feed their families. This is the most striking finding of a report released today by the Canadian Labour Congress. While more Canadians are working and some are earning a little more than last year, the number of people working for poverty wages is on the rise.

"As a country, we have a problem when one out of every eight people that have a job, stays poor and one out of every four workers have jobs that offer little economic security or stability," says Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

The Report Card 2006 Is Your Work Working for You?, which compares job and income statistics for the first half of each year since 2001, paints the picture of a contrast. On the bright side: growing job creation, reduced unemployment, some growth in real wages and household savings. In the shadows: a surprising growth in the number of working poor and a widening gap between those who earn the most and those who earn the least.

"The people with the highest incomes are getting more than their fair share. Meanwhile, everyone else struggles to get by and the poorest workers get left behind. A truly healthy economy would do a better job of sharing its prosperity," says Georgetti.

The Canadian Labour Congress report is not the first to uncover the growing number of working families slipping into poverty. The Canadian Association of Food Banks recently reported that people with jobs make up the second largest group of food bank clients. Campaign 2000's latest report card on child and family poverty in Canada shows that a third of low-income children live in families where at least one parent worked full-time for the entire year.

Georgetti says the growth in poverty among working families has more to do with the poor quality, not the quantity of jobs being created.

"In a tight job market, employers should be able to offer permanent employment to workers, yet 27% of adult workers still find themselves with part-time, temporary jobs or in some form of self-employment. While there has been some decline in part-time jobs, the proportion of short-term contracts and seasonal jobs has grown," he says.

According to Georgetti, the new jobs being created are not replacing the jobs being lost in the country's manufacturing sector, which has shed 300,000 jobs over the past four years. Many of those jobs were full-time, high-skill and paid an average of $21 per hour. Meanwhile, the energy boom that's creating good jobs, largely in Western Canada, has only replaced one in six of the jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since 2002.

"Getting a job is supposed to mean getting ahead. It's supposed to be a family's ticket out of poverty. A country so prosperous and rich in opportunity should be able to do better for working citizens," says Georgetti, with a call to government to come up with a jobs strategy that focuses on the long-term prosperity of working families, to improve access to collective bargaining and to raise and enforce our employment standards.

"Raising the wages of the poorest workers would be a good place to start, which means bringing minimum wages above the poverty line and providing the means for the working poor to improve their skills, including basic literacy and numeracy programs," says Georgetti.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 135 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca

Contact Information

  • Canadian Labour Congress
    Jeff Atkinson
    613-526-7425 and 613-863-1413
    or
    Canadian Labour Congress
    Jean Wolff
    613-878-6040