TORONTO, May 5, 2021 – Building on a longstanding research project conducted by Public Policy Forum (PPF) and the Diversity Institute and supported by the Future Skills Centre about the future of work, a new research series, Skills for the Post Pandemic World tackles key questions facing policymakers, employers, training providers and workers as they collectively turn to face the post-pandemic future of skills, training and retraining. Released today as part of the series is a report analysing the growing job polarization in Canada from 1989 to 2019 and shows a steady increase in high-skilled jobs while mid-skilled jobs dwindle in Canada. It also shows that women are making gains in high skilled jobs and youth and immigrants are engaging more in low-skilled jobs, creating inequitable access to the labour market and a large wage gap.
Job Polarization in Canada Report Key Findings:
- Canada has seen a 7.5-percentage-point increase in high-skilled occupations and declines in mid- and low-skilled ones. These changes have not been uniform across provinces.
- In the three decades since 1989, the share of mid-skilled jobs in Canada shrank from 58.5 percent to 52.6 percent. Unlike most other OECD countries, the share of low-skilled jobs did not increase. The share declined by 1.6 percentage points.
- Canadians employed in high-skilled jobs earn almost four times more than those working in low-skilled jobs.
- Prior to the pandemic, the proportion of women in high-skilled jobs (37.7 percent) has come to slightly exceed the proportion of men in high-skilled jobs (36.6 percent).
- The pandemic has exacerbated the labour-market division along the lines of credentials and skills. There is a clear relationship between the ability to telework and one’s industry and level of educational attainment. Although 40 percent of Canadian workers can telework, the percentage fluctuates from 25 percent for those with a high-school diploma to 60 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Report authors, Sean Speer, report co-author, PPF Scotiabank Fellow in Strategic Competitiveness at the Public Policy Forum and assistant professor, University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and Sosina Bezu of the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University recommend that policymakers think about how they can create a new generation of middle-class jobs, an exercise that should transform today’s low-skilled jobs into more mid-skilled ones.
Some recommended actions to take include:
- Support productivity enhancing technology
- Invest in digital skills development,
- Modernize labour market standards to reflect new and emerging forms of employment and boost low-skill occupations.
- Work on foreign-credential recognition, and reforms to labour regulations to address barriers such as discrimination.
- Expand childcare for working families could also make a big difference.
- Expand vocational education and micro-credentialing to help those in low-skilled jobs keep up with the changing labour market demands.
- More study is needed in the area of job polarization especially as it pertains to its effect on under-represented groups such as Black, Indigenous, racialized and immigrant workers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on Canadians, primarily low-wage workers, young people, racialized workers, persons with disabilities and women. Our government will ensure that Canada’s economic recovery is inclusive of everyone. We will help address gaps in skilled jobs by creating about 215,000 new job and training opportunities for young Canadians and making investments for women including in low-wage jobs, in skilled trades, in early learning and child care.”
-Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“This research reveals the polarization of jobs in Canada, which has become more pronounced during the pandemic. These changes have adversely affected some populations and sectors of the workforce far more than others. The findings will help to shed light on these discrepancies and demonstrate the need for a comprehensive skills strategy and range of policy approaches that ensure an inclusive recovery for all.”
–Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre
“Equitable access to skills and training is needed to bridge the gap of the growing divide of job polarization and to grow the economy as we look to build back better. The pandemic has disproportionately and negatively impacted access to employment, skills and training to underrepresented groups. It is encouraging to see that Statistics Canada may have the opportunity to expand its data collection to improve the understanding of how polarization differs for racialized Canadians, Indigenous people, disabled Canadians and young workers.”
–Wendy Cukier, director of Ryerson Univesity’s Diversity Institute and academic research lead of the Future Skills Centre
“The aim of this report is to provide an in-depth examination and draw attention to the continuous trend of job polarization and encourage policymakers to consider the causes and effects of job polarization as part of a skills agenda for a post-pandemic world.”
–Sean Speer, report co-author, PPF Scotiabank Fellow in Strategic Competitiveness at the Public Policy Forum and assistant professor, University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
“The decline in the share of mid-skilled jobs is an issue that needs more discussion and research to better understand job polarization, including its causes, effects and how it is manifesting in Canada among provinces, industries and different workers. This report offers an important analysis which we hope will initiate a conversation minimizing the more negative economic and social effects of the “vanishing middle.”
–Sosina Bezu, Report co-author, Senior Research Associate, Diversity Institute at Ryerson University
About the Future Skills Centre
Future Skills Centre is a forward-thinking research and collaboration hub dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success and meeting the emerging talent needs of employers. As a pan-Canadian community, FSC brings together experts and organizations across sectors to rigorously identify, assess, and share innovative approaches to develop the skills needed to drive prosperity and inclusion. FSC is directly involved in innovation through investments in pilot projects and academic research on the future of work and skills in Canada. The Future Skills Centre is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program.
About the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management
The Diversity Institute conducts and coordinates multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder research to create practical strategies to advance skills and employment opportunities for women, racialized people, newcomers, Indigenous people, persons living with disabilities and others. The Diversity Institute is home to unique programs such as the Advanced Digital and Professional Training Program (ADaPT) as well as the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub aimed at building an inclusive innovation ecosystem.
Good Policy. Better Canada. The Public Policy Forum builds bridges among diverse participants in the policy-making process and gives them a platform to examine issues, offer new perspectives and feed fresh ideas into critical policy discussions. We believe good policy is critical to making a better Canada—a country that’s cohesive, prosperous and secure. We contribute by:
- Conducting research on critical issues
- Convening candid dialogues on research subjects
- Recognizing exceptional leaders
PPF is an independent, non-partisan charity whose members are a diverse group of private, public and non- profit organizations.
For further information: Kathleen Powderley, Responsible Communications, [email protected] 416-803-5597