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Navigating precarity in non-standard work

Realities and policy recommendations
Labour market disruption Quality of work life Flexible work Sector regulation Canada

An estimated 30 percent of the Canadian workforce engages in non-standard employment in some form. Very simply, non-standard work can mean work you take on outside of your main form of employment. But it can also mean your main form of employment does not contain any formal, paid working arrangement.

More than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are more attuned to the lives of essential workers who have supported us during this time — from grocery workers we saluted as heroes to tireless food couriers delivering meals to our doors. Yet, we are likely less aware of another force that often confronts these workers every day — precarity and an inability to move out of this space if they wanted to. 

This paper explores the current state of non-standard and precarious employment and antecedents that have rendered this a reality for many and a choice for some. This is a dialogue between intersecting policies that requires us to think beyond existing structures to envision a future where precarity does not have to be a reality. This paper explores policy considerations in three key areas:

  1. Data - that is transparent, accessible and can lead to proactive policies. 
  2. Benefits - that do not compromise security for flexibility. 
  3. Alternatives - that are real and acceptable.
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