The Coming Precarity: Employment in Canada after the Crisis

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2091 ... May 15, 2020

The Coming Precarity: Employment in Canada after the Crisis

Bruce Kecskes

The immediate impact of Covid-19 on the national employment landscape has been nothing short of catastrophic, with Canada suffering unprecedented job losses over the early months of the crisis. More than a million Canadians lost their jobs in March, and an additional 800,000 had their paid hours reduced by over 50 per cent (Evans 2020). The recently released StatsCan Labour Force Survey (LFS) for April is the first government report to capture a full month’s worth of employment data since the start of the crisis. The April LFS suggests that unemployment has more than doubled since February, having risen to 13 per cent (StatsCan 2020). As staggering as this figure is, it still belies the true scope of the crisis as the official data relies on a draconianly narrow definition of unemployment. When all factors of unemployment are considered, the true rate of unemployment and severe underemployment in April exceeds 30 per cent of the national workforce (Stanford 2020).

These numbers are staggering... and are likely to worsen before this crisis reaches its zenith. A crisis of this magnitude will have lasting impacts on the landscape of employment in Canada. Even months from now, as a sense of ‘normalcy’ is regained and employment rates begin to bounce back, the aftershocks of the pandemic-related employment crisis will pose a significant threat to employment structures and the class power of Canadian labour as a whole.

Consideration must be paid to what impact this unprecedented level of unemployment will have on the post-pandemic structure of the Canadian labour market, the strength of unions, and class formations generally. Particular attention must be given to the impact of the crisis on the expansion of non-standard and precarious employment. How will this massive hike in unemployment coupled with the accelerating growth rate of precarious work impact the economic relations of the working class, union power and the Standard Employment Relationship’s (SER) status as the normative mode of employment? For socialists, these questions must be carefully considered while assessing the political topography of the post-pandemic world, as their resolution is likely to play a crucial role in determining the new boundaries of the possible.

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