Community in Focus: Getting Started

BUT IS IT A GOOD JOB? UNDERSTANDING EMPLOYMENT PRECARITY IN BC

A 2023 study released by the Understanding Precarity in BC Partnership reveals a polarized labour market in which precarious work is far more pervasive than many assume and includes much more than “gig work.”

The pilot BC Precarity Survey, conducted in late 2019 and completed by over 3,000 workers aged 25 to 65, provides a unique snapshot of the provincial labour market just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The survey confirms the burden of precarious work falls more heavily on racialized and immigrant communities, Indigenous peoples, women, younger workers, and lower-income groups, com­pounding systemic and intersecting inequalities in BC.

The survey measured precarious employment in two ways. First, it asked respondents if they had a “standard job” (permanent, full-time position with at least some benefits). Second, it used the Employment Precarity Index to locate workers’ employment experiences on a continuum from secure to stable, vulnerable, and precarious.

Precarious jobs mean that workers are experiencing insecurity, instability, low pay, a lack of access to benefits, and negative impacts on physical and mental health.

Key findings include:

The standard job was not all that common.

  • 51% of BC workers surveyed had a non-standard job.
  • 60% of recent immigrants (less than 10 years in Canada), Indigenous workers, and racialized women were in non-standard jobs.

BC’s job market was quite polarized.

  • 37% of respondents had precarious jobs and only 18% were in secure jobs.
  • 55% of recent immigrants were in precarious jobs, the highest proportion of any group surveyed.
  • Younger workers (aged 25 to 34) were more likely to be in precarious jobs.

Employment precarity had negative effects on individuals, families and communities.

  • Workers in precarious jobs—especially those with low incomes—were more likely to report poorer physical and mental health.
  • Parents in precarious jobs were four times more likely to report that lack of access to childcare impacted their ability to work (39%) compared with those in secure jobs (10%).
  • 60% of recent immigrants reported that access to childcare negatively affected their own and/or their spouse’s ability to work (compared to 37% of non-immigrants).

The BC Precarity Survey will be repeated to study changes over time, including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and public policies. The Understanding Precarity in BC Partnership involves four BC universities, 26 community-based organizations, and more than 80 researchers and collaborators.

Source: Simon Fraser University, Morgan Centre for Labour Research and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC Office