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Unemployed Canadians Suffer More Than Loss of Wages

Leading labour economist reports on policy gaps and non-financial aspects of work 


December 17, 2019

OTTAWA, ON – Business leaders, unions, and governments will not be prepared for the next economic downturn without taking a new approach to employment and labour. The newly published report, Work Is About More than Money, reviews decades of research on the social, health, psychological, and relational components of work. Co-authors Dr. Morley Gunderson, a University of Toronto professor and one of Canada’s foremost labour economists, and Brian Dijkema, Vice President of External Affairs at think tank Cardus, suggest the labour policy focus on wages isn’t enough.

“Employment Insurance is important, but it can’t fix everything,” says Dijkema. “Work fosters mental and physical well-being, aside from providing a social circle – so having a job, or going for a long time without one, has implications well beyond a paycheque.”

Being out of work can be harmful in a variety of ways. Some research suggests job loss is associated with earlier death and with increases in child neglect, increased heart disease, and even traffic accidents.

“Business leaders, unions, and governments need to develop a work-first culture,” says Dijkema. “That means that even during periods of downsizing or economic dislocation, the emphasis decision-makers will emphasize maintaining work and minimizing job loses through job sharing or other means to lessen the social, health, and psychological harm that can come through unemployment.”

Work Is About More Than Money also notes that if employers paid more attention to the non-monetary aspects of work, it would help improve their recruitment and retention efforts. This is especially important for two-earner families who increasingly prioritize work-family balance. Some employees may be prepared to give up income in order to facilitate such balance.

Work is About More than Money is freely available online.

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