In the modern labour market, many young people are forced to work multiple temporary or part-time jobs over the course of their careers. Temporary jobs typically pay lower wages; provide little or no job security; fail to provide pension plans and/or health benefits. The article explores the downsides of this situation.

High-ranking members of the Canadian government have stated that young Canadians must adapt to this new reality. The hostile welcome Justin Trudeau received at a youth forum last month shows that young workers are neither pleased nor willing to accept this reality, which is further examined in an associated article, For young Canadians, a new reality: dealing with ‘job churn’ by Rachelle Younglai on October 28, 2016.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Personal finances, politics, economics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of temporary employment?
  • Why are companies willing to offer temporary contracts, given the fact that they will have to spend money and time training individuals they will hire for a short period of time?
  • Why is temporary work bad for government finances?
  • How does the rise in temporary employment affect financial planning of recent and prospective graduates?
  • Are young people better or worse off than previous generations?
  • Are there any viable solutions to reducing temporary work contracts or increasing permanent employment?
  • What skills are required to be successful in today’s labour market?

New Terminology:

Job churn, prime working age, labour participation rate

Materials needed:

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently stated that Canadian youth must get used to “job churn” – i.e. jumping from “job to job to job.” His remarks were met with a cold shoulder from recent graduates, who have invested a substantial amount of their time and money into their expensive college or university educations, in hopes of getting secure, full-time permanent employment upon graduation.

Unfortunately, they have had to contend with temporary employment. Among young workers in 2015, 1/3 (33%) worked in seasonal jobs, contract or casual positions, compared to 25% in 1997. Young workers in today’s labour market are expected to be able to transfer their skill and talents from one job to the next. This requires an ability to adapt to new working environments quickly, which is a particularly difficult task because the soft skills and agility needed to succeed in today’s economy are not taught or tested in most classrooms.

The rise of temporary employment could potentially have negative effects on Canadian workers and the Canadian government. Temporary workers are less likely to get a raise, access to health benefits, or a decent pension plan. As a result, the government will receive less in income taxes in the short term, and in the long run, it will have to fund programs which will assist temporary workers when they retire.

In the meantime, corporations are often happy to utilize the service of temporary workers and unpaid interns, as it means they will pay less in salary expenses and pension contributions and increase their bottom line (i.e. the net income they generate for their shareholders).

For all the negative effect of temporary employment, it does provide young workers with a great learning experience and an opportunity to develop their network base. These resources could be beneficial as they advance in their respective careers. To enable young workers to deal with the current labour market, Mr. Morneau said his government is looking to train and retrain people as they change jobs.

This article provides teachers with an opportunity to discuss the current trends in the labour market, and the skills student will have to develop to be competitive with Canada’s dynamic labour market.

Key statistics:

  • Unemployment rate for youth is 13%
  • Percentage of young workers working in seasonal jobs, contract or casual positions is 33.33%; compared with 25% in 1997.
  • Labour participation rate among youth is 63% compared with 90% for prime working age.
  • 40% of young adults live with their parents compared with 27% three decades ago.
  • According to the Canadian Intern Association, there are 300,00 unpaid interns across the country

Action (lesson plan and task)

  • Hand students a copy of both articles.
  • Ask them to state some disadvantages of the rise of temporary employment.
  • Ask students to state some reasons why companies are looking to hire temporary employees instead of permanent employees. (i.e. cheaper labour, less salary and pension cost, flexible work force, seasonal employment, etc.)
  • Ask students to indicate (by raising their hands) if they would prefer having multiple temporary jobs or few permanent jobs over the course of their careers
  • Ask them to think about some benefits of temporary employment.
  • Ask students to state some benefits of permanent employment.
  • Ask students to weigh these benefits of temporary and permanent employment against the costs and conclude which form of employment is more desirable.
  • Ask students to state some actions the government can take to reduce temporary employment. (There are no easy answers to solve this problem, although it is clear that the federal government can do more to protect young workers. For example, in the second article, written by Rachelle Younglai, Ms. Sandill suggests that the government strengthen the country’s labour laws and ban the use of unpaid interns. That will certainly be a good place to start.)
  • Ask students to list some skills youth will have to gain to be competitive in a labour market in which temporary employment is on the rise.
  • Ask students to explain how temporary employment will affect their ability to do the following:
    • Purchase a house
    • Rent an apartment
    • Save for retirement
    • Save for an emergency
    • Purchase a car

Consolidation of Learning

Divide students into two groups:

  • Ask one group to argue that temporary employment is here to stay and young employers must adjust to it because this is the direction the economy is moving
  • Ask the other group to argue that temporary employment should be curtailed by the government because it is harmful to the job security of young workers
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students should be aware of the increase in temporary employment and the skills needed to thrive in today’s labour market.

Confirming Activity:

  • Ask students to state some ways they can gain skills that are highly sought after by employers (ability to learn quickly, leadership skills, collaborative skills, etc.).
  • Ask students to state how they plan on communicating/showing the skills to their prospective employers (good grades, work experience, ability to display communication and critical thinking skills during an interview, etc.).