COVID-19 has not dented Canadians’ outlook about the future or their confidence in their ability to bounce back quickly after hard times, even as the pandemic’s effects on employment started to pile up, according to the results of a recent survey.
The Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, found that Canadians did not lose confidence in themselves or the social safety net as the impact of the pandemic set in.
Those with higher levels of education and income signified greater confidence while less secure workers indicated they were more uncertain they can access the resources they need to weather the pandemic’s employment storm.
Respondents said skills training contributes to their ability to succeed at work, but half the Canadian labour force has had no employer-delivered skills training in the last five years, the survey found.
“It is encouraging that Canadian workers felt equally resilient and supported by the social safety net before and after the onset of the pandemic, but many do not feel that support as strongly,” says Andrew Parkin, Executive Director of the Environics Institute. “One of our greatest challenges remains getting help to those who need it the most.”
COVID-19 caused a significant shift in Canadians’ outlook on employment, with more workers across the country reporting it was a bad time to find a job or that they were worried about job security for themselves or a family member.
The only province where residents did not register increased job insecurity was Alberta, where the level of pessimism was already very high.
The survey also shows that even before COVID-19, many Canadians were concerned about job security and had direct or indirect experiences with unemployment, with half of those in the labour force worried about their jobs before the pandemic began to metastasize into the global job-killer it has become.
The survey provides insight into how governments and employers can prepare to restart the economy.
“Canadian workers appear open to new work arrangements that are more reliant on technology-assisted communication and collaboration, an environment many have experienced during the physical distancing period,” Parkin says.
But while the survey finds workers who access skills training feel positive about its benefits, many miss out. Only one in two workers has had any employer-delivered skills training in the past five years.
Older workers, non-unionized workers and those with low-income jobs are less likely than others to have participated in skills training.
Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre, hopes the survey will used as a tool in rebuilding the economy, because it identifies where governments and employers need to target their efforts in supporting the return to work for millions of workers.
“Skills development is an essential part of a comprehensive strategy for economic recovery and rebuilding a better future for workers after a pandemic or any economic shock. Some sectors, populations and geographic areas will be harder hit than others, and governments and employers should be responsive to this,” Barata says.
“Some Canadians will experience more worry and economic hardship than others. Successful recovery and rebuilding efforts must consider issues of gender and diversity,” says Dr. Wendy Cukier, Director of Ryerson’s Diversity Institute.
The 2020 Survey on Employment and Skills was designed to explore the experiences and attitudes of Canadians related to education, skills training and employment. This year it was conducted between late February and early April when the serious impact of COVID-19 became apparent.
The survey of 5,000 Canadian adults across Canada was conducted either online (provinces) or by telephone (territories) between February 28 and April 4, 2020. About 2,900 interviews were conducted on March 9 or earlier, prior to the WHO pandemic declaration. About 2,100 were conducted on March 10 or later.
- After the pandemic was declared, 63% of Canadians said they were confident in their abilities, compared to 61% before that time
- After the pandemic was declared, 54% said they felt they could bounce back quickly after hard times, compared to 51% before that time
- After the pandemic was declared, 65% of Canadians felt it was likely they would receive government support if they lost their job as the pandemic took hold, compared to 61% before that time
- 51% of the labour force has had no employer-delivered skills training in the last five years, with low-income workers less likely to have received this type of training (42%) than high earners (63%), and workers 55+ receiving less (36%) than those aged 25-54 (52%)
- Almost one in two Canadian workers said they were very or somewhat worried about themselves or a member of their immediate family finding or keeping a stable, full-time job after the pandemic set in
- Older workers are less likely to be worried about job security (40% of those 55+, compared to 56% of those aged 25-34)
- Women (44%) are more likely than men (35%) to say that now is a bad time to find a job where they live