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Non Standard Employment, the Jobs Crisis and Precarity

A Report on the Structural Transformation of the World of Work

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Executive Summary : The Structural Transformation of the World of Work

The Critical Features of the Non standard Labour Market Model

This report examines the causes as well as the symptoms of non standard employment. Its principal wide angled finding is that non standard employment has always been part of the labour market but now it has become a predominant feature. The two features of non standard work are little or no job security and highly flexible hours and conditions of work set by employers for their specific needs.

Defined in the broadest sense, non standard work is employment that differs from the full time, permanent, standard employment relationship (SER) involving continuous employment under direct supervision on an employer’s premises (Vosko and Clarke, 2009). The decline of the manufacturing industries combined with outsourcing, decreased rates of unionization and the increase of precarious forms of employment are redefining the labour market. The growing eclipse of full time employment shows how part time, non standard work is replacing the standard employment relationship and all that went with it. In Ontario, we are now witnessing a transformation of the economy as employment in service producing industries increased from 73% to 79% between 2000 and 2013 and job tenure – the number of years a person holds her job and one of the best measures of stable employment – has dropped precipitously for mid career workers over 40 (Stone and Arthurs, 2013). At the same time short term employment has increased significantly.

A second major empirical finding is that for many experts, job tenure for mid career men is in decline in all OECD countries with the exception of France (Stone and Arthurs, 2013). In Ontario job tenure for men in mid career with more than ten years has taken a beating declining from over 50% to 35% between 1985 and 2010. The trend for men and women holding a job for 5 years or less and those under 30 has high turnover rates. This evolution of job tenure lasting five years or less seems irreversible since the growth rates of temporary and part time work are outperforming full time and permanent work. At a deeper level there is a marked structural transformation in the dynamics of the labour market as mass production industries have been hollowed out as production shifts overseas or to other regions, labour markets have been profoundly impacted. Job ladders, career opportunities, gender equity but, most of all, the secure and well paying stable jobs have disappeared undermining the existing labour relations regime. The consequences for organized labour are far reaching. Labour’s countervailing power has suffered a series of setbacks from which it is yet to recover (Drache, 2014). The four main elements of the model of non standard work are the decline of real wages, inadequate statutory protection, the weakening of labour’s institutional voice, and intense labour shedding technology, compounded by increasingly competitive labour markets (See Figure below).

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