Working multiple jobs to make ends meet in BC

—With partial reopening on the horizon, more workers may be vulnerable than official statistics suggest—
May 6, 2020

VANCOUVER - The need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet has contributed to the tragedy in seniors homes during the COVID-19 crisis, but even beyond nursing homes, working more than one job is common across all regions of BC. That’s the central finding of new research released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC Office and SFU’s Labour Studies Program, from a province-wide workforce survey conducted not long before the pandemic began.  

The survey found that especially younger workers, those with casual or temporary jobs, racialized workers and those without citizenship status are most likely to work more than one job.  

“On the surface BC’s job market seemed strong going into the pandemic, with low unemployment and plentiful job vacancies, but beneath the surface structural problems abounded, including many people across the province needing to work multiple jobs,” says Iglika Ivanova, CCPA-BC Senior Economist. 

The survey was conducted in late 2019 and key findings include: 

  • Almost one third of workers aged 25 to 65 had worked multiple jobs at the same time in the previous three months.
  • Casual or temporary workers are more than twice as likely as those in full-time permanent positions to work more than one job.
  • Younger workers (25-34) are almost twice as likely as older workers (55-64) to hold multiple jobs.
  • Lower-income workers are more likely to work multiple jobs than those with higher salaries.
  • Non citizens are more likely to work more than one job than Canadian citizens.
  • Racialized workers are more likely to have multiple jobs than non-racialized people. 

“Unfortunately, long-term care workers aren’t the only ones who can’t support their families with a single job. Having to work several jobs is a common reality for people in all regions of BC and is not confined to the big cities with high costs of living,” says Kendra Strauss, Director of SFU’s Labour Studies Program. 

“The pandemic is shining a light on the deep inequalities that already existed in our economy and left some people across BC much more exposed to risk and less prepared to weather the crisis than others,” Ivanova says.  

“The official statistics for people working multiple jobs have barely budged in the last 20 years despite the rise of gig work and the casualization of many jobs. This raises questions about whether the Labour Force Survey is accurately capturing the realities of Canadian workers,” she added. “Without up-to-date accurate data, we cannot monitor how different workers are being affected by economic challenges such as the current crisis and we are not able to develop public policy that supports them.”  

As the BC economy gradually reopens, Ivanova and Strauss say it is crucial to ensure the economic security of vulnerable workers.  

“We are concerned these inequities could put British Columbians with precarious employment situations at risk as we shift towards reopening, potentially jeopardizing our success to date in flattening the curve,” says Ivanova.  

“We need to rethink how our labour market is structured so that paid work allows people to keep a roof over their head and food on the table without having to juggle multiple jobs,” says Strauss, noting that  we urgently need: 

  • An overhaul of our system of workplace rights, protections and benefits, which are based on the outdated assumption that people have a permanent job with a single employer providing benefits.
  • An expansion of programs like Employment Insurance and benefits like paid sick days for all employees so they don’t have to go to work sick because they can’t afford to miss a day’s pay.  

The internet-based survey was administered by Insights West between November 19 and December 12, 2019 to British Columbians between the ages of 25 and 65 who had worked for pay in the previous three months. The survey, which replicated elements of the PEPSO survey of workers in Ontario, was designed to collect more information on job quality and workers’ experiences of insecure and precarious employment than Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey covers. A total of 3,117 qualified respondents completed the survey. Weighting was applied to the data according to Statistics Canada 2016 Census figures on region, age, gender, ethnicity and among the Chinese and South Asian populations, country of birth and time in Canada among immigrants to ensure it is representative of the working BC population between the ages of 25 and 65. A true probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8% 19 times out of 20. 

For information and to arrange interviews, please contact Jean Kavanagh at 604-802-5729, [email protected]