Fear and hope in the workplace

Hal Quinn January 7 1985

Fear and hope in the workplace

Hal Quinn January 7 1985

Fear and hope in the workplace


‘Are you currently employed outside the home?’



‘How satisfied are you with the job you have now?’

VERY SATISFIED.......................(36%)


DISSATISFIED.................... (8%)

VERY DISSATISFIED....................(3%)

NO OPINION....................................(*)

‘Are you employed on a full-time or part-time basis?’

FULL-TIME................ (78%)


BOTH................................ (1%)

Hal Quinn

It is a reality that touches most Canadians either directly or through friends and relatives: for nearly every nine Canadians working there is one unemployed, fully 11.3 per cent of the country’s available work force. The impact of that fact is evident in the replies to The Maclean’s/Decima Poll. When asked, “In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing Canada today... the one about which you, yourself, are most concerned?” 37 per cent of respondents cited unemployment generally and an additional 16 per cent said youth unemployment specifically. Concern over loss of jobs far outweighed every other issue, including inflation (five per cent), the possibility of nuclear war (six per cent) and the state of the economy in general (six per cent). In the face of such a severe problem, the poll discovered, Canadians are now willing to look to new, even radical, approaches to reorganizing and redirecting the labor force. Indeed, a majority is even willing to accept the novel concept of job sharing.

The poll shows that most of the 11,153,000 employed Canadians are satisfied with their jobs. But within that group there is a deep concern for the 1,305,000 who are out of work. When asked, “ How satisfied are you with the job you have now?” the majority of

Canadians surveyed said that they were satisfied with their jobs (53 per cent), a large proportion (37 per cent) were very satisfied and only 11 per cent were dissatisfied. Then, when asked if they supported the idea of sharing their jobs and giving up “working hours and income so that an unemployed person can find work,” 53 per cent of all respondents said that they favored or strongly favored the notion.

Buffeted: Significantly, those who were most concerned about keeping their jobs or about finding new jobs in the future constituted the largest bloc of those supporting job sharing. Canadians who were more likely to favor the proposal included those with an elementary school education (65 per cent), those earning less than $10,000 a year (61 per cent), those 65 years of age or over (75 per cent) and women (60 per cent). Among Canadians who were more likely to oppose job sharing were those 16 to 24 years of age (57 per cent), students (56 per cent), singles (54 per cent), professionals (53 per cent) and men (52 per cent). The split was also evident by regions. In British Columbia, where the provincial economy has been buffeted by strikes and government spending cuts, 73 per cent favored job sharing, while 53 per cent of residents of the relatively more affluent province of Ontario said they opposed the concept.

Canadians’ concern over unemployment was also reflected in the response to another vital question. Decima asked: “Some people have said that Canada’s labor unions have been doing a good job of protecting their members’ jobs by fighting employers who want to use new technologies which might eliminate jobs. Others have said that by resisting technologies the unions are going to hurt our economy because we will not be able to compete internationally and that this will eventually eliminate even more jobs. Which one of these two views reflects your own?” An overwhelming 64 per cent said that union resistance to technologies hurts the economy.

Among the 32 per cent of respondents who said that unions are doing a good job of protecting positions, the strongest support came from the unemployed (46 per cent), union members (44 per cent), those \with an elementary school education (42 per cent), those 25 to 29 years of age (40 per cent) and those earning less than $30,000 a year (35 per cent). Those critical of the unions included professionals (78 per cent), Canadians who are 35 to 39 years of age (73

per cent), those with a university education (70 per cent) and those earning over $30,000 a year (72 per cent). Residents of highly unionized Quebec (39 per cent) were most likely to support the unions, while Canadians on the more agricultural and less unionized Prairies (77 per cent) were most likely to say that the unions are hurting the economy.

Poll respondents also indicated that substantial numbers believe that Canadians are losing their will to work hard. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “The next generation will probably not be as dedicated to hard work as were previous generations.” Only 35 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.

Preference: Of the 1,500 Canadians interviewed for The Maclean's/Decima Poll, 59 per cent had a job outside the home and of those 78 per cent worked full time, 21 per cent part-time and one per cent worked both full and part-time. The poll showed that of those working full time 66 per cent did so because they needed the income and 30 per cent did so to feel fulfilled. Quebec residents (36 per cent) were the most likely to work full time to feel fulfilled, while people on the Prairies (25 per cent) were the least likely. Seventy-five per cent of workers in “low-level” or manual labor positions said that they held jobs because they needed the income, compared with 73 per cent of workers in “medium-level”

or more sophisticated jobs who listed need as their motivation and 72 per cent of union members. Thirty-seven per cent of the working women polled said that they worked part-time, compared with 11.5 per cent of working men, and fully 59 per cent of women working parttime did so by preference. Men were more likely to work part-time because they could not find full-time work (29 per cent) or because they were attending school (38 per cent).

A 39-year-old Toronto management consultant, Margaret Wilson, is among the 21 per cent of those surveyed who said that they worked part-time and the 45 per cent who said that they preferred it that way. The mother of two splits her working time between the office and her home, “whatever is most convenient.” And while Wilson’s husband is “sometimes green with envy” as he heads off to his full-time job, Wilson says her approach to work was made for “my family.” As she put it,“ I do not want to be tied to a full-time commitment.” Wilson predicts that more and more people will choose to work part-time. “I know very few workaholics nowadays,” she said. “I do not know whether it is that we are less acquisitive now or that we can acquire things more easily.” The pressures in the workplace and rapid changes in technologies are contributing to that trend, she says. Added Wilson: “People are no longer as loyal to companies, but not as many companies

are as loyal to their employees.”

Canadians have also clearly gravitated to the fastest-growing sectors of the economy. At the midpoint of the decade more Canadians, almost 3.5 million, are employed in service industries than in any other field. Just under two million are involved in trade, and more than two million work in manufacturing. Federal, provincial and local governments employ roughly 764,000; transportation, communications and utilities, 859,000; construction, 636,000; financial institutions, insurance and real estate companies, 640,000; agriculture 475,000; and forestry, fishing and mining, 308,000.

Affected: Unemployment usually affects the service industries the most directly. Fully 380,000 Canadians involved in that field are out of work. In the manufacturing sector about 225,000 people are unemployed; trade accounts for 202,000; construction, 127,000; transportation, communication and utilities, 69,000; agriculture, forestry, fisheries and mining, 79,000.

The outlook for the unemployed is bleak. Last month Canada Permanent Mortgage Corp.’s quarterly survey of 30 leading private sector forecasters agreed that the unemployment fate in 1985 will average 11 per cent. Only onethird of the forecasters quoted said that the rate will average less than 10 per cent through 1988.

At the same time, many Canadians seem to have lost faith in the govern-

ment’s ability to solve the unemployment problem. Fully 60 per cent of respondents to The Maclean ’s/Decima Poll agreed with the proposition that Canadians should rely more on individual initiatives and abilities and less on government. Another 24 per cent strongly agreed, only 14 per cent disagreed and a mere two per cent strongly disagreed. While Canadians remain deeply concerned about jobs—and the federal government has said that it will tackle the task of job creation partly by inviting more foreign investment by dismantling the Foreign Investment Review Agency and replacing it with Investment Canada—the poll indicates that Canadians are wary about throwing open the door to foreign competition. Fifty per cent of Canadians feel that much more foreign investment should be invited into the country but fully 45.8 per cent feel that the cost of more foreign investment would be too high.

Faith: Poll respondent Nicole Byres, 26, of Trail,

B.C., was one of the jobless women polled by Decima. Byres got married recently and moved last October to Trail, where her husband had a law practice. Although she is also a lawyer, she has been unable to find employment. Said Byres: “I do not know if governments have the capability to create jobs. I have more faith in the individual. I think I will have to open my own firm. Governments start programs and then you never hear of them again.”

For his part, poll respondent James Isnor,

26, of Halifax said that about one-third of his friends are out of work.

Isnor drives a Zamboni ice-flooding machine at the Metro Centre in Halifax, and for now the high school graduate is satisfied—but he is still searching for a better job. Said Isnor: “The government job-training programs are never for jobs that the people want. The training is always for something totally different from what they took in school.” Isnor’s job is, by definition, seasonal. He is laid off each summer. “For a single man I live pretty well in the winter,” he said, “and it is nice to go to the beach in

the summer, but then it is not a good dollar situation.” Isnor added that he reads the want ads regularly but, as he put it: “It is the old song and dance. The want ads all ask for experience.”

While Isnor hopes to begin a career, poll respondent Robert Marshall, 55, of Calgary, has exercised his option for early retirement after 37 years with Air Canada. But the former personnel supervisor agrees with Isnor. Said Marshall: “I don’t see why they would go around training people for jobs that aren’t there.”

Among its other findings, the poll indicated that Canadians are willing to explore radical solutions to the unem-

^ ^ ‘Some people have said

that Canada's labor ( ::: P unions have been doing a

I """ \ good job of protecting

\_/ their members' jobs by

_ fighting against employers

who want to use new technologies which might eliminate jobs.

Others have said that by resisting technologies, the unions are going to hurt our economy because we won't be able to compete internationally and that this will eventually eliminate more jobs. Which one of these two views best reflects your own?'

UNIONS ARE DOING A GOOD JOB............. (32%)


NO OPINION........................... (4%)

‘One of the suggestions which has been made for dealing with unemployment is an idea called “job sharing” where someone who has a full-time job gives up some of his or her working hours and income. Would you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose this idea?'

STRONGLY FAVOR.............. (8%)

FAVOR.................. ..........(45%)

OPPOSE...................... (32%)

STRONGLY OPPOSE..................... (13%)

NO OPINION............... ...(2%)

ployment problem. In their readiness to consider the controversial suggestion of job sharing, Canadians were following the lead of several major organizations. In a report released last September, the Canadian Mental Health Association, for one, called for a new social contract under which working Canadians would be called upon to share their jobs and incomes with the unemployed. Job sharing is also supported by James Nininger,

president of the Conference Board of Canada, and that economic forecasting organization is now conducting an extensive study of the issue. Indeed, the concept emerged as one solution to longterm unemployment from a federal government seminar sponsored by former employment minister Lloyd Axworthy in 1983 for a number of cabinet ministers and job experts. Said Nininger: “It is a major rethink of the way Canadians live and work. We have got to take a new approach.”

But some organizations, particularly labor unions, rej eet the j ob-sharing concept. Dennis McDermott, president of the Canadian Labour Congress which has two million members, says that labor will oppose any move that reduces workers’ income. Said McDermott: “If they want people to work less and make the same, that is fine. But some people’s idea of job sharing is working half as much for half as much pay.”

Some poll respondents were also convinced that work sharing would be feasible. Marshall described job sharing as a type of “carnal employment.” He added: “It creates a situation where you are paying a lot less money to a lot more people. Nobody ends up making enough money. People cannot live on a 20-hour-a-week salary.” Still, Canadians are stubbornly optimistic and satisfied with the work they do. At the top end of the scale were British Columbians, 94 per cent of whom were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, followed by residents of the Atlantic provinces (90 per cent), with Quebecers at the bottom (87 per cent). Also highly satisfied were professionals (96 per cent) and married Canadians or those living in common law arrangements (92 per cent ). Less likely to be satisfied were those 18 to 24 years of age (86 per cent), single people (85 per cent) and those earning less than $10,000 a year (72 per cent). The Maclean's/Decima Poll has made it clear that the job—whether it is the fear of losing it or the joy of doing it—remains the focal point in the lives of most Canadians.^