Although still little recognized, underemployment affects more than 844,000 people in Canada. This is reported in the Uncovering Underemployment white paper published in November 2019 by Deloitte and Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
The underemployed are those whose skills, experience and abilities are underused. The employee concerned may be underpaid, overqualified for their position, and also work less than they should or would like to.
What are the causes?
The population categories most affected are the most vulnerable: women, newcomers, visible minorities, Aboriginals, disabled people, LGBTQI2+, young people, as well as humanities graduates. Those with several of these categories are more at risk.
These are the categories most affected by various economic, social or structural factors, such as unemployment, the place of immigration, the number of people with a post-secondary diploma, personal skills, automation or technological progress.
What are the effects?
While the immigrant population is increasing, the population is ageing and the birthrate remains low, reducing underemployment is becoming a priority for the prosperity of Canadians as well as for the country as a whole.
The Canadian economy could grow by $17 billion a year if the potential of these underemployed people was recognized, according to the report. What is beneficial for individuals is also beneficial for society. An employee working at the level of his or her skills enjoys a better quality of life and sees their productivity increase. This has a positive impact on their community, employers and the economy in general.
Currently, underemployment is holding back the Canadian economy, slowing innovation and productivity, and making workers more vulnerable. At least, that is what is described in a 2014 document on youth unemployment and underemployment.
What are the solutions?
First of all, it is up to employers to hire employees who match well-defined needs. It is also recommended that they establish programs that maximize the skills of workers.
As for employment assistance organizations and services, it would also be more beneficial to adopt a long-term strategy to truly address the origins of underemployment. Rather than focusing on the hiring rate of individuals, they should rather be guaranteeing their retention after hiring.
Similarly, these services should be accompanied by additional social supports such as individual coaching, workplace training or training that meets the company’s specific needs.