Part-time work plays a crucial role in the Canadian job market. It allows employers to adapt their activities to new and more demanding times. It also provides new opportunities to those who do not want or who have not found full-time work. Its few standards make some fear an overall weakening of the system. In return, though, it supports the economy and promotes its development. Part-time work is no longer an exception, but a full-fledged option.
Growth and part-time work
Since 1990, changes in the proportion of part-time workers have generally been inversely proportional to employment growth.
Employees with temporary jobs accounted for 19.1% of the Canadian working-age population in 2016, up from 18.9% in 2012.
After the 2008 crisis, growth was based on both full time and part time work, but for a few years, the the rise results essentially from full time employment. From June 2016 to June 2017, the employment raised of 1.8% (317 000 jobs) mostly based on increases in full-time work. Over the same period, the total number of hours worked rose 0.7%
To clearly understand the dynamic at work, one needs to look at the various categories of part-timer.
According to gender: in 2012, the proportion of employed women working part time was more than two times that of men (26.7% compared with 11.86%). For women the proportion varied little between the last 20 years, whereas for men it rose a lot.
The increase for men is explained by the fact that their job losses were concentrated in manufacturing and construction, sectors where there is little part-time work (less than 5%).
The most recent rise is more complex and is the result of the higher proportion of jobs held by young people aged 15 to 24 (33.8%) and particularly people aged 55 and over (38.26%).
A coveted workforce
Retirements are encouraging businesses to look to part-time work, aware that a shortage of employees could imperil their growth.
In a study issued in December 2007, the Conference Board of Canada even forecasts that in 2030, over 350,000 jobs will remain unfilled in Quebec alone.
Part-time work develops where there is a severe shortage of labour.
Around 46,700 part-time jobs were created while 12, full-time jobs were lost in August 2010 (Statistics Canada). The construction industry has been the most impacted by these losses. C
Advantages for employers
The risk of a labour shortage is not the only factor pushing businesses to review their recruiting strategies, however. Part-time work is a way of doing business. Employers find its flexibility in terms of labour management appealing.
Linda Baril, owner of the Kamanka restaurant, explains that part-time work is essential in the restaurant business. “I have one permanent part-time employee. The others are on call. Everything depends on the number of customers on the premises; I estimate what my needs are. If I know that customers are coming in, I call for back-up. Every day, in fact, I have someone come in to help, but I never know at what time. The situation makes it more difficult for employees to know how much money they’ll make, but from my end of things, if there are few customers, I don’t have a choice. I can’t pay someone to do nothing, because the money comes straight out of my pocket.“
Employers also cut down on expenses with temporary or seasonal work. Part-time workers are cheaper because they’re only called in when needed.
Some fear that part-time jobs are undermining the job market by substituting for full-time work. Many unions say that by choosing part-time work, employers are promoting insecure jobs. They see the progression of part-time work as threatening job security.
Part-time jobs are less secure and regulated. Only basic rights and a minimum salary are guaranteed. Getting paid benefits and allowances depends on the goodwill of bosses, and salaries are sometimes less than their full-time equivalents. Overtime is also less costly for employers, causing it to be overused.
Bosses decide when and how much employees will work. Wherever possible, they take employee requests into consideration. Shift workers make up a large proportion of part-timers. They work irregular hours or split shifts, often at night.
The part-time share of employment varies considerably by age.:
- 33.8% among those aged 15 to 24
- 27.8% among those aged 25 to 54
- 38.4% among those aged 55 and over
For Statistics Canada, part-time employment rates increased most notably among youth aged 15 to 24. Almost half (47.4%) of the employed 15-to-24 year-old worked part-time in 2011, and 72.2% of them chose part-time work to continue studying at the same time.
Part-time work also suits other lifestyles, with 45-plus workers representing one third of part-timers. Most of them have chosen to work part time: older workers want to work, but at their own pace.
Among those who worked part‑time in 2015, a greater proportion of women (67.2% vs 53.0%) did so voluntarily—meaning that they wanted to work less than 30 hours per week. For mothers, a work/family life balance remains a key factor in their choice of job. According to Statistics Canada, 26.4% of 24- to 44-year-old workers said they worked part time to have more time for their children.
Except for those who don’t succeed in finding full-time work, part-timers have chosen to set aside time for other activities: students to attend classes, mothers to pick up their kids from school and grandparents to babysit their grandchildren. Some people also hold down several part-time jobs to make more money. It all depends on your circumstances. You either work part time because there is nothing else available, or by choice.
In 2016, 39.9% of part-time workers stated a preference to be working full time. These are considered to be involuntary part-time workers.
A greater proportion of men (47%) than women (32.8%) worked part‑time involuntarily in 2016, meaning that they wanted to work 30 or more hours per week. Of involuntary reasons for working part‑time, business conditions was cited by the largest proportion of both men and women (35.0% and 23.3%, respectively).