Make Precarious Employment History

Piles of overdue bills. No cash for your child’s field trips at school.  No benefits plan to cover dental or medical expenses. No retirement savings. No quality child care. Precariously employed women are stuck in neutral while an affluent country prospers and advances around them.

151182_memes_poverty3Since the 1980s, we have a seen a rise in precarious work – insecure jobs, including part time, on call, contract, non-unionized and minimum wage. Today, precarious employment is an entrenched feature of our labour market. It is women who account for 70% of part-time employees. And 60% of Canadians working for minimum wage are women.

Many women work one or two part-time jobs and still live in poverty. Most have no safety net if they fall out of work or if they or a loved one falls ill. Too many lack the stability to make financial plans. They are trapped in employment where flexibility is required of them, rather than for them.

Some women, especially youth, are working for free in unpaid internships to gain work experience. In these positions they lack basic health and safety protections under federal law. There are no limits on the numbers of hours they can be forced to work. It can be unsafe and exploitive.

Precarious work creates stress when income and earnings are not reliable. The pressure of holding multiple jobs with irregular or long hours reduces family time, especially with children.  And child care services for women who work non-traditional hours are largely non-existent. We also know that women’s economic inequality creates the conditions for violence.

Remember these women and vote in the federal election on October 19th.

Canada needs progressive policies and strategies to address women’s economic inequality. Women living in poverty have hopes and dreams for their families as we all do – full-time work, a living wage, affordable housing, accessible child care, and equal pay for work of equal value. The federal government must take a leadership role.

By calling for action and voting, we make these issues part of the national election discussion. Only then can we make precarious employment history.


Andrea Reynolds and Catherine McLean are staff members at YWCA Toronto’s Employment Training Program.