Low-wage work skyrocketing: Ontario study

June 15, 2015

TORONTO –The low-wage workforce in Ontario grew by 94 per cent over the past 17 years, vastly outstripping the growth in total employment which grew by 30 per cent, says a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office (CCPA-Ontario).

Meanwhile, the share of Ontario workers earning the minimum wage skyrocketed from 2.4 per cent of all employees in 1997 to 11.9 per cent in 2014, while the share of low-wage workers (making within $4 of the minimum wage) blazed from 19.8 per cent in 1997 to 29.4 per cent in 2014.

“We’re also seeing a disturbing prevalence of unpaid leave and unpredictable hours of work for low-wage workers,” says the study’s author, CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block.

Among the disconcerting low-wage job trends uncovered in the report:

  • Unpredictable hours are the norm for most minimum wage workers (six in 10) and for many workers earning between the minimum wage and $15 an hour in 2014 (four in 10).
  • The lower the pay, the more likely an Ontario worker is to forced to take unpaid time off if needed: only 16.8 per cent of minimum wage earners who were absent got paid time off in 2014 and only 24.9 per cent of workers earning $11-$15 got paid time off. In sharp contrast, the majority (56.8 per cent) of Ontario workers earning more than $15 an hour got paid during their absence.

The report is released in advance of the Ontario government’s consultation process to review the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act.

“The findings make a compelling case for modernizing the outdated labour laws in Ontario,” says Block. “There is also scope for the province to raise the minimum wage, to require employers to schedule more predictable work hours, to improve access to sick leave and vacation time, and to make it easier for low-wage workers to unionize.


A Higher Standard: The case for holding low-wage employers in Ontario to a higher standard is available for download on the CCPA website.

For more information please contact Trish Hennessy at 416-525-4927 or [email protected].