"Sometimes a job is not enough"
2005年 04月 11日
Toronto Star, Mar. 18, 2005
Statistics Canada says a single person in an urban centre needs $16,348 to stay out of poverty. （ちなみに時給８ドル・１日８時間で１年働いたとすると$16,640の収入になる[計算方法はこちら]）
Sometimes a job is not enough
Toronto Star, Mar. 18, 2005
Every time I write about poverty, I get a volley of messages pointing out that the best social program is a job.
Children wouldn't be poor if their parents got off their butts and worked, irate readers insist. Taxpayers wouldn't have to waste their hard-earned money on social assistance if welfare recipients earned a living like everybody else.
Would that it were so simple.
How can a single mother work if child care costs more than she earns? How can a new immigrant find a job if he or she barely speaks English? How can a person with no contacts, no experience, no marketable skills and no confidence get a foothold on the employment ladder?
There is an even more fundamental problem, says Richard Chaykowski of Queen's University.
Millions of jobs don't pay enough to keep a family out of poverty.
He has just completed an examination of non-standard employment for Canadian Policy Research Networks, a think-tank specializing in social issues.
Chaykowski found that the post-industrial era has spawned a profusion of casual, part-time and temporary jobs. Most are characterized by low pay, irregular hours, poor working conditions and no prospects for advancement.
As of 2000 — the last year for which he could get national figures — one-third of all working Canadians earned less than poverty wages (not enough to bring them up to Statistics Canada's lowincome cut-off).
Not surprisingly, the majority of these vulnerable workers were women and young people.
Chaykowski did not investigate their ethnic background, but in Toronto there is little question that visible minorities are overrepresented among the working poor.
Contingent workers typically get placements through temporary agencies, which charge hefty commissions. They dare not complain about discrimination, unsafe working conditions or violations of the Employment Standards Act for fear of losing their livelihood. They have little recourse if a deadbeat boss shortchanges them.
"We are dealing with the new sweatshops of today," says Deena Ladd, co-ordinator of Toronto Organizing for Fair Employment (TOFFE), which helps non-unionized workers fight for their rights.
Roughly 115,000 Torontonians are trapped in precarious, low-wage jobs. They wait by the phone each morning wondering if they will work, where they will work and how much they will be paid. They put up with harassment. They hide on-the-job injuries. They work past their scheduled shifts. Most make less than $10 an hour.
"These people are excluded from the basic protections other workers take for granted," says Ron Saunders, head of labour market studies for Canadian Policy Research Networks.
It is possible that the readers who send me e-mail rockets don't know about this ugly underside of the knowledge economy. It is not visible to most middle-class taxpayers.
It is also possible they assume that subsistence jobs serve as a stepping stone to better work.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
A job probably would be most people's social program of choice if it paid a living wage, provided health and pension benefits and offered a reasonable measure of economic security. But for many workers, that is a distant dream.
To make it a reality, several things would have to change:
Policy-makers would have to update Canada's labour legislation. As things now stand, millions of workers are not covered by employment standards and not eligible for jobless benefits. Temp agencies, of which there are more than 500 in Toronto, can skim off half a client's wages. Workers can be rented and returned liked spare parts.
Governments would have to enforce existing laws. Abusive employers know there is almost no risk of getting caught because job site inspections are rare and vulnerable workers are afraid to report them.
New forms of collective representation would have to be developed. Traditional unions aren't suited to contingent workers, who are widely scattered and move from job to job. But community organizations such as TOFFE could be certified to bargain on their behalf.
And minimum wages would have to be raised. Ontario's currently stands at $7.45 an hour. That works out to $15,496 a year, assuming a 40-hour week and no holidays. Statistics Canada says a single person in an urban centre needs $16,348 to stay out of poverty. A family of three needs $25,230.
A strong work ethic does help pull families out of poverty, as my disgruntled correspondents contend.
But in today's cut-rate job market, it's not enough.