Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Stanford writes about the myth of a labour shortage in Canada:
In this context of chronic un- and under-employment, it is jarring that so many employers, business lobbyists, and politicians continue to complain about a supposed shortage of available, willing, and adequately skilled workers. Employers routinely claim they can't find qualified Canadians to perform even relatively straightforward jobs. They can't entice Canadians to move from depressed regions, to areas with jobs. They can't elicit desired levels of effort, discipline and loyalty.

According to this worldview, the biggest challenge facing our labour market is adjusting the attitudes, capabilities and mobility of jobless workers. The question of whether there are any productive, decent jobs for those workers to fill is downplayed or ignored altogether. The problem, in other words, is not with unemployment. The problem is with the unemployed.
(T)he mismatch theory is wrong, both theoretically and empirically. Except in very rare circumstances, the labour market almost never runs out of workers. The usual problem is a general and persistent inadequacy of demand for labour on the part of employers. That's especially obvious today, four years into an economic "recovery" that has left millions of Canadians parked on the economic sidelines.
Focusing on job creation should occupy 95 per cent of Mr. Kenney's attention as Employment Minister. Instead, he will likely focus on social engineering: tough-love efforts to adjust the expectations, attitudes and flexibility of the unemployed, rather than trying to create jobs for them. In this regard, it is not surprising that Mr. Kenney added the term "Social Development" to his portfolio. This further telegraphs his intentions to blame the unemployed, not unemployment, for the continuing weakness in Canada's labour market.

Stagnation in real wages provides further evidence that there is no generalized constraint on the supply side of the labour market. If skilled workers were genuinely in short supply, their services should be becoming more expensive (as eager employers try to snap up scarce candidates). To the contrary, median hourly wages in Canada have been growing less than one per cent per year since 2010 -- lagging far behind inflation.
- In a similar vein, Lydia DePillis exposes the emptiness of business-sector claims that poverty and inequality should be dealt with through education rather than a fair distribution of resources. And Jeffrey Simpson recognizes that Ontario's constant attempts to appease the corporate sector with tax giveaways have led to no apparent economic benefits.

- PressProgress highlights Chuck Strahl's latest depiction of the Cons' ethical standards - as he's deflecting his multiple conflicts of interest by pointing that he's not quite as bad as the criminally-convicted Arthur Porter (who was of course also judged suitable to oversee Canada's spy service by Stephen Harper). Meanwhile, Tom Parry reports that part of the problem with the current structure of SIRC may be based on the lack of a full-time chair, and both Alison and Greg Weston remind us that the rest of SIRC's board is no less tarred by conflicts of interest than Strahl.

- James Munson points out that it isn't only CSIS that's being shaped for the oil industry's benefit, as the Cons have radically altered environmental approval processes to the advantage of Enbridge and other operators. And Max Paris reports on Thomas Mulcair's rightful comments that we should expect our government to protect the public interest in rail safety and other areas - not to conceal and facilitate the spread of avoidable public risks.

- Finally, Michael Green discusses the importance of measuring social progress - as well as the role of the Social Progress Imperative in carrying out that measurement around the globe.

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