Precariously Employed Workers

Precariously employed workers (including self-employed and misclassified workers) confront multiple dimensions of labour market insecurity, such as high levels of uncertainty, low income, a lack of control over the labour process, and limited access to regulatory protection (Good Gingrich 2016; Lightman and Good Gingrich 2018; Thomas 2009; Vosko 2006; Vosko 2020). They are disproportionately women; workers who are young, racialized and/or recent immigrants; and located primarily in the private sector. The precariously employed represent a growing proportion of Canada’s workforce, and yet are at great risk. Problems surfaced by the pandemic, as well as responses to it, challenge prevailing policy responses centered on encouraging individual self-reliance, rather than fostering community resilience. To highlight the impact of COVID-19 and its management, this sightline will chronicle both the experiences of key groups of precariously employed workers and labour market policy responses to their vulnerability. As such, the news and research in this sightline are focused on impacts on workers at the frontline of the pandemic, such as cleaners, care workers, delivery workers, food service workers and retail workers, as well as central policy responses such as the CERB, CESB, and other income supplements for these workers.

Featured Resource

Feng Hou, Kristyn Frank, and Christoph Schimmele, Statistics Canada: Economic impact of COVID-19 among visible minority groups. (July 6, 2020).

The economic lockdown triggered by COVID-19 has led so far to disproportionate employment losses among lower-paid workers and young workers. Its impact on visible minorities is currently less known. Since visible minorities often have lower incomes and more precarious employment than the White population (Block et al. 2019; Lightman and Gingrich 2018), their ability to buffer the income losses due to work interruptions is likely more limited.