Monday, 12 October 2009

Job Insecurity And The City Of 'Have And Have Nots'.

The Toronto Star published two op-ed pieces that have a mass immigration angle but of course is not addressed.

The first one can be read here. It's about the growing presence of "precarious work" in Canada's labour market.

This week, an international coalition of unions sounded the alarm: Precarious work has reached epidemic proportions.

Around the world – in developed and emerging nations – employers are replacing full-time workers with part-timers, contract staff and temporary personnel. These "non-standard" employees have no job security and no benefits. Their wages usually are low. Their bargaining power is negligible.

"While the impact may be different depending on each country's social and economic conditions, the goal of employers is the same: cheap, flexible labour that can be brought in and dropped at will," says the International Metalworkers' Federation, which is spearheading the global call for action. "This is everybody's problem – today's secure job could be tomorrow's temporary contract."

In Canada, 37 per cent of work is part-time, short-term or casual.[...]The proportion of non-standard workers has been inching up since the 1980s.[...]A decade ago, 68 per cent of working Canadians had jobs that produced a steady income and provided health and retirement benefits. Now it's down to 63 per cent.

And the real jolt is still to come, labour analysts say. Most of the full-time jobs lost in this recession won't come back. Most of the employees laid off in the past year won't find permanent work. When the statistics catch up to the reality, people will be forced to confront the new normal.

The article quotes one time NDP MP Peggy Nash who lost her Parkdale-High Park Toronto riding to Liberal Gerrard Kennedy in the last election. She is concerned about the rise of precarious work which "not only strips people of a decent living", the article states her pointing out, but "it undermines the country's social arrangements" like "pensions, employment insurance, drug coverage, dental care, maternal and other benefits".

She also tabled a private members bill that would have made immigration more open and easier for family members living over seas to immigrate to Canada. It didn't go anywhere, many private member's bills don't, but the fact she tabled it plus her union activism illustrates that the woman cannot connect the dots. It seems to her mass immigration, especially that of the family class kind which is the mass introduction of unskilled work into Canada, and the rise of precarious work are not related in any fashion whatsoever. I had the opportunity to talk to her about Canada's mass immigration system and I can assure you that, though she is sincere and she does care, she is as oblivious about the system as most politicians are, resorting to the easily defeated rhetoric to make her case.

Here's more for the record:

The trouble is, most of the new jobs are part-time, temporary or self-made.

Since the recession began, 485,000 Canadians have lost their livelihood and 155,000 have found work. But almost all the gains are in self-employment (which could mean anything from a laid-off bureaucrat becoming a consultant to a laid-off truck driver buying a rig and becoming an independent owner-operator.)

The editorial that appeared opposite the op-ed quoted above is noteworthy. It is a piece of mass immigration apologetics disguising the paper's true purpose of keeping attitudes soft on immigration so Canada will continue to import more Toronto Star readers that can be sold to advertisers. It's a defense of foreign workers in which we read:
Nor do the benefits all flow one way. "Contrary to commonly held beliefs, migrants typically boost economic output and give more than they take," the UN says. "Immigration generally increases employment in host communities, does not crowd out locals from the job market and improves rates of investment in new businesses and initiatives." Canada's experience confirms as much.

Confirms? I'd like to see how they support that assertion because I don't think that is entirely true. By taking jobs Canadians won't do foreign workers keep wages so low that it discourages Canadians from considering those jobs at all thus maintaining a low wage, low income regime which produces poverty. Also, the unemployment rate in Canada has been steadily increasing with increased immigration. We know poverty in Toronto hits immigrant communities the hardest and that immigrants are taking longer to get established, if at all, and meet their Canadian born counterparts economically. If the "Canadian experience confirms as much" it is that Canada is importing people for whom there are no jobs for outside of low wage, precarious ones which begs the question why are we bringing in so many at all?

This brings me to the next Toronto Star op-ed. It discusses the growing rich/poor divide in Toronto. You can read it here.

As the Vital Signs report shows, Toronto is doing quite well by many standards. It's safer, greener and cleaner than most major cities. It ranks 15th out of 215 cities in terms of quality of living. It's the second richest city in Canada, with an average household net worth of $562,000.

But for many immigrants, young people, the poor and elderly, Toronto is not a great city at all.

The signs are everywhere.

The city ranks 190th in the world and 29th in Canada in terms of housing affordability. Its elderly residents are among the poorest in Ontario. Young families are leaving the city because it's too costly.

Decent paying manufacturing jobs have largely gone. Youth unemployment tops 20 per cent, with many 25-year-olds never having had a paid job. Youth gangs have doubled in the last 10 years.

Most disturbing is the fact that Toronto is witnessing the disappearance of its middle class.

In 1970, some 66 per cent of Toronto neighbourhoods were considered middle-income. By 2005, it was just 29 per cent and it's still falling, mainly because of the explosive increase of poor and very poor neighbourhoods.

Also troubling is that the sense of belonging to our community is the second lowest in Canada, with the rate among second-generation immigrants plunging in the last year.

Rahul Bhardwaj, president of the Toronto Community Foundation, says these trends should concern all residents because, unless we act quickly, we could see our city become a city of haves and have-nots, leading possibly to increased crime and citizen disengagement.

In short, we could become seriously polarized.

According to the UN this shouldn't be happening in Toronto because "Immigration generally increases employment in host communities, does not crowd out locals from the job market and improves rates of investment in new businesses and initiatives." Indeed, Toronto alone attracts 110,000 immigrants each year. The city should be awash with jobs grown out of improved rates of investment in new businesses and initiatives all thanks to immigration. The Toronto Star says the Canadian experience confirms this.

Mass immigration has contributed to and is aiding the increase in precarious work in the Canadian labour market. It sustains it. If Toronto is steadily becoming a city of "haves and have nots" then mass immigration has allowed this to happen. The Toronto experience confirms this. Too many immigrants come to Canada each year, more than the nation can accommodate economically and culturally. Time to cut the numbers.

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