Staying out of work

It is astounding to see the number of places advertising for Help Wanted. It certainly is a welcome change from a year or so previously. Yet, still there are more than one million people classified as unemployed. That total is only 41,000 lower than a year ago, while the number of employed people rose by about 450,000.  What accounts for the fact that so many remain unemployed?

Small wonder that our politicians jump on the favourable data, but there remains the question of why so many are staying out of work.

While clearly things are getting better, nonetheless, too many remain unemployed. There are many explanations for that.

One of the reasons is that the rise of nearly one-half million in employment reflects the increase in the count of temporary workers, which really does little to cut the number of real job seekers.

Many firms have spent the past two years trimming their workforces. Numbers of dismissed workers have lost employment because of structural changes in our economy, and the move of production abroad.

Those who have lost employment have to find jobs in new firms and new industries. That takes longer than for those who were laid off because of a cyclical recession.

Currently a big part of the job problem is due to structural changes. A decade ago about half of Canadian workers were in industries undergoing structural adjustments, but at the present time that figure has soared to nearly 80 per cent.

That highlights an important point. It takes much longer currently to find jobs in the latest industries. Many of the unemployed are not sufficiently qualified to fill those positions.

It is about time that we redress that situation, so that the pool of unemployed can be reduced. It remains distressingly high, given the multi-year expansion of our overall economy. One obvious way to start is to provide retraining for displaced workers. Tax incentives and grants should be provided to companies to offer skill training. The funds for that should come from reversing the GST cutbacks.

Then too, we should plan major projects that do not require much skilled labour, repairing our infrastructure. A recent report cited the dire need for that. Roads, bridges, dams, sewers, irrigation systems, and waste management operations are in a sorry state. Those are projects that cannot be left to the profit sector, and in many instances ordinary workers can be so employed.

It is intolerable that we continue to have more than one million unemployed as of this date, particularly despite the years of prosperity over the past several years. Remedial steps are long overdue.


Bruce Whitestone