It has been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, forcing thousands of workers out of jobs in Canada —  many of them permanently. Although emergency income-support programs were introduced fairly quickly, they were meant to be temporary. With mass vaccination on the horizon, now may be the time to start thinking about long-term policies that will help displaced workers adjust to post­-pandemic economic realities. A wide range of such policies already exists in Canada, including temporary income replacement, training and assistance with job search. What is less well known, however, is what workers do to improve their situations, especially when employment opportunities are scarce — as they are now and are likely to remain until the pandemic’s effects subside.

This study, by Statistics Canada researchers René Morissette and (Theresa) Hanqing Qiu, documents the use of four adjustment strategies by Canadian workers permanently laid off in 2009 — in the middle of the last recession: moving to another region, enrolling in post-secondary education, signing up for a registered apprenticeship and becoming self-employed. The authors examine whether the adoption of strategies varied according to workers’ characteristics and their employment status a year after job loss, and to what extent it differed in the short and long terms.

Documenting and quantifying the adoption of various adjustment strategies is a first step in improving the understanding of workers’ behaviour after job loss. Each strategy has pros and cons to be considered. Identifying the predominant strategies can shed light on the wide array of incentives and barriers people face when responding to job loss, especially when employment options are scarce. In the post-pandemic world, the findings of this study will be especially relevant for informing the development of policies to support displaced workers.

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IRPP Study 82