Our employment crisis: Part two

By Michael Lashley

With the sole possible exception of the federal government, there is a clear consensus that Canada’s labor market is undergoing a major crisis, but no one wants to comment on when the proverbial and malodorous fecal matter will hit the fan.

In the first week of April this year, The Caribbean Camera sounded the alarm bell. Last week the Toronto Region Board of Trade and the United Way Toronto issued a joint report that highlighted the infectious diseases that are eating away at the labour market in the GTA.

A few days before that report was issued, TD Bank also made some sobering comments on the seriousness and complexity of our unemployment situation.

According to the analysis presented in our newspaper’s earlier Editorial: “Income inequality is a very significant feature of a labor market that is characterized by a chronic spiral of increasing unemployment, under-employment and all the attendant social and socio-economic ills.”

Our warning was stark. “Failure to act responsibly will increase the suffering of the unemployed and underemployed, prolong the agony of the nation’s families – especially the children – and create an uncontrollable and persistent chain reaction of periodic social uprisings, explosions of criminality and ever-expanding pockets of sustained poverty.”

The Board of Trade and the United Way said the same things, but in gentler terms, in their report, Closing the Prosperity Gap – Solutions for a More Livable City Region.

They cited “a decrease in the number of new jobs, with too few being real career opportunities that offer stability and security; unequal access to quality of life determinants and opportunities among different neighbourhoods in our region; and greater challenges for newcomers and young people than other segments of the population in building better lives for themselves.”

In case some people did not get the message, these two agencies reminded us that the rate of youth unemployment in Toronto for the first six months of 2014 was 21.8%. For those unfortunate enough to be in leadership positions without adequate competence in arithmetic and without the requisite level of social consciousness and social responsibility, that means that more than one out of five young persons of employment age does not have a job!

As usual, The Camera accepts its duty to ask the pertinent questions and to suggest some directions in which we all can collectively address these challenges. Our comments and suggestions appear weekly and are generally concentrated in our Editorials.

So, here we go again, without missing a beat!

Who will pay the political price for our endemic labour market ills and their painful consequences? How will the suffering and economically marginalized “masses” face the crisis and vent their reactions to it? How will the politicians deal with the situation?

The major policy tools for labour market issues are in the hands of the provincial and federal governments. The provincial government has publicly acknowledged the crisis and put it at the centre of their budget and program of action. In any case, being newly elected, they still have their full term of office to show concrete results on this front.

Rather, it will be the federal party in power for the last eight years which will need to face the electorate next year. The Camera has already pointed out the consequences that can arise if the least-favored segments of our nation use their ballots as a form of protest.

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley