Ontarians on the job hunt could be in for an especially long and tough haul, according to a report released on Nov. 19.
The province is home to the highest proportion of minimum wage earners and one of the worst unemployment rates compared to the rest of Canada, said the report from Ontario Common Front (a coalition of 90-plus labour and community groups concerned with inequality).
“Ontario is dead last in funding for social programs and, by nearly every measure, it is trailing every other province in income equality and poverty reduction,” said Natalie Mehra, who authored the report.
In it, Mehra culled data from Statistics Canada to show three significant shifts in Ontario, including a changing labour force, the erosion of income transfer programs and cuts to social programs. The result is a very different standard of living for Ontarians, she noted.
“While it is hard to start a family anywhere in Canada, young families in Ontario are struggling with the largest student debt loads, the most expensive child care, the worst access to affordable housing and highest costs for health care — all at a time when good jobs are being replaced with precarious, part-time and temporary employment,” Mehra said.
For instance, Ontario’s part-time workforce has ballooned from five per cent below the rest of the population to where it stands now, at eight per cent above other provinces. There are now 1.7 million people earning within $4 of minimum wage and over the past five years, cuts to public services amounts to more than $7 billion in per-person funding, according to the report.
The report also suggested Ontario’s long-term unemployment rate is the second worst in Canada and that there has been a 38 per cent jump in poverty over the past two decades, with one in five children living below the poverty line.
Add to that some of the country’s highest tuition fees and child care costs and the future of meaningful work in Ontario becomes muddled, said Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
“When I look a the fact one-third of Ontario’s workforce are earning at or near the minimum wage, I feel sick for the future. We cannot sacrifice youth and young families on the altar of deficit reduction and corporate tax giveaways,” Ryan said. “It is time for a real plan to create meaningful jobs to support the next generation.”
Though Ontario Common Front credited Premier Kathleen Wynne with taking steps toward closing the equality gap — including upping the minimum wage, pushing for a provincial pension plan and reducing child poverty — there is still a long way to go before the province is on par with others.
“If there is good news to be extracted from this report, it is that every other province in Canada has charted a better course than Ontario. This serves as proof that every government is capable of making different choices,” Mehra added.
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