Canadian Human Resources
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Growing Poverty Casts Shadow

January 21 2007 - A recent report by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) shows that a growing number of Canadians are trapped in jobs that don't earn enough to cover the cost of rent and food. More Canadians are employed and some are paid a little more than last year, but the number working for poverty wages has also increased.

Ken Georgetti, president of the CLC said:

"As a country, we have a problem when one out of every eight people that have a job, stays poor and one out of every four workers have jobs that offer little economic security or stability."

The Report Card 2006 Is Your Work Working for You? compares job and income data for the first six months of the last five years. It identifies a growth in job creation, reduced unemployment, and some improvement in real wages and household savings. However, there has also been an increase in the number of working poor and a widening gap between those earning the most and those earning the least.

Ken Georgetti commented:

"The people with the highest incomes are getting more than their fair share. Meanwhile, everyone else struggles to get by and the poorest workers get left behind. A truly healthy economy would do a better job of sharing its prosperity."

Recent research by the Canadian Association of Food Banks has found that employed people make up the second largest group of food bank clients. Campaign 2000's latest report on child and family poverty in Canada shows that a third of low-income children live in families where at least one parent worked full-time throughout the previous year.

The CLC report argues that the growth in poverty among working families has more to do with the poor quality rather than the quantity of jobs being created.

Ken Georgetti explained:

"In a tight job market, employers should be able to offer permanent employment to workers, yet 27 per cent of adult workers still find themselves with part-time, temporary jobs or in some form of self-employment. While there has been some decline in part-time jobs, the proportion of short-term contracts and seasonal jobs has grown."

The report suggests that creation of new jobs is not compensating for those lost in the manufacturing sector, which has shed 300 000 jobs over the past four years. Many of those were full-time and high-skill, paying an average of CDN$21 per hour. The energy boom is creating good jobs, mostly in western Canada, but this has only replaced one in six manufacturing sector jobs lost since 2002.

The report calls on government to come up with a jobs strategy focusing on the long-term prosperity of working families, improving access to collective bargaining and raising employment standards.

Ken Georgetti added:

"Getting a job is supposed to mean getting ahead. It's supposed to be a family's ticket out of poverty. A country so prosperous and rich in opportunity should be able to do better for working citizens. Raising the wages of the poorest workers would be a good place to start, which means bringing minimum wages above the poverty line and providing the means for the working poor to improve their skills, including basic literacy and numeracy programs."

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