Ted Jackson is a university professor, management consultant and author who is a faculty member in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University.  Ted and I also share the common experience of having been labourer -teachers in the early 1970's with that marvellous adult education institution, Frontier College.  This is Ted's answer to the question:  What would you like to become more visible in 2011?   You can also Download Becoming Visible  -  the complete collection of 58 essays. Ted's response came later and is the 59th.  It will be added soon in an updated version.

Pathways Out of the Precariat

Way too many.

That’s how many Canadians belong to the precariat.  A term coined by British economist Guy Standing, the precariat refers to the alarmingly large pool of workers who rely on part-time and contingent work to earn a living. 

True, for high-end professionals like accountants and consulting engineers, this is not a bad gig—though markets for their services can dry up fast, with little warning.  But the most intense problems are at the low end of the income scale, where part-time work in any sector—retail, cleaning, agriculture, even construction—just doesn’t add up to a living wage. 

This breeds roiling economic insecurity.  Feeling undervalued, workers lose self-confidence and self-esteem; some become immobilized.  Canadian households that are dependent on part-time and contingent work can’t plan beyond the next paycheque; can’t buy assets, like houses, that build equity; and, in the worst cases, can’t even put healthy food on the table.

Guess who really likes the precariat?  Organized crime!  Anxious precariat members can become users of illegal and destructive drugs.  Some who have been out of work a long time, and become delinked from the labour market and society in general, join criminal gangs to earn quick money and gain peer support.

Globalization only has one plan for the precariat, and that is to grow it even bigger.  Most elites around the world are too self-absorbed to care.  Corporations continue to be rewarded by stock markets and their shareholders for mass layoffs of fulltime employees.  And governments seem unable or unwilling to use public policy to keep their citizens out of the precariat.

That’s why my hope is that a wide array of pathways out of the precariat will become more visible in 2011. 

In fact, there are many such stories, often with the innovative programs of civil-society organizations behind them.  Yet these stories are too rarely reported in the media.

For example, many new Canadians have set up successful small businesses financed by the microloan program of Alterna Savings Credit Union in Toronto.  On a larger scale, in Quebec, the Social Economy Trust makes long-term loans for the expansion of social enterprises that provide affordable services and products and good jobs to citizens who otherwise would be marginalized in the labour market. 

And not all companies destroy jobs to get ahead.  My friend, Canadian journalist Frank Koller, has written Spark, a brilliant book on Lincoln Electric, the American welding company that has had a no-layoff policy for a century and continues to thrive as a robust Fortune 500 firm.  It turns out that Lincoln is the Harvard Business School’s most popular case study of all time, even though most Business professors see it as an outlier. 

Maybe it doesn’t have to remain an outlier.  Maybe corporations should be given preferential tax treatment for creating and sustaining full-time, quality jobs with good benefits.  And maybe a premium on the taxes of very wealthy Canadians could pay for it. 

Share the wealth.  Share the stories.

NOTES:

Ted was involved involved with Tim Draimin, Tim Brodhead and I in imagining a national social finance agenda and creating Causeway Social Finance to fast track Canada's adoption of social finance.

You can download the complete collection of Becoming Visible responses here: Download Becoming Visible.  Or by clicking the Becoming Visible Category on the right hand side of your screen.

Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc.  I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.

 

 


 

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