Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear here today. I am not going to address the range of issues my colleague just identified, but rather one key issue in particular, the growth of precarious employment in the federal public service.
I urge this committee to deal with this issue. It's important for many reasons, and one is that it has a lot to do with equity for women and, as our research is suggesting, particularly for racialized women.
As you probably know, women make up over half of the federal public service workers, which has tended to represent better jobs for women compared with the private sector, especially for marginalized women. The growth in precarious employment is really troubling because it does start to undermine—indeed, is undermining—steps towards equity and gender equality.
I have been analyzing precarious or casualized employment in the public sector for many years. I think we're probably all familiar with the concept. It's the loss of full-time, stable employment in favour of many forms of less stable employment, usually with less pay and lacking the same benefit coverage, such as health benefits, pensions, and so on.
I want to share some findings of some recent research that CRIAW has conducted on what's been happening to different groups of women within the federal public service.
We recognize women's diversity and therefore use what's called an “intersectional lens” to try to identify and tease out differential impacts on different groups of women. Our study is from 2005 to 2014. We got special data runs from the public service employee survey. We analyzed that, and we've been publishing some of the results.
I tried to update it, but it wasn't easy to get this data, which leads me to the issue of the need for greater transparency in having information publicly available on this key employment indicator.
What we do know from our research from 2005 to 2014 is that the number of women in non-permanent positions has grown steadily in the federal public service over that period of time. As well, the number of permanent positions for all women fell by about 6%. Aboriginal women, racialized women, disabled women, and able-bodied white women have all experienced an increase in non-permanent or precarious employment during this time, some groups more than others.
Our data analysis indicated that racialized women, or those who are considered visible minorities—the category StatsCan uses—experienced the sharpest increase in precarious employment, a 21% jump from 2005 to 2014. Also, they are more likely than any other group of women to hold non-permanent positions in each of the profile years and so are being adversely affected disproportionally by policies that favour the growth of precarious employment and the loss of permanent and more stable jobs in the federal public service. Able-bodied white women also experienced a decline in permanent employment. The numbers are significant because they are the majority of women who work in the federal government.
This trend towards greater precarity is troubling, and I think you know why. The ILO, for example, has associated it with inadequate rights and protection at work and lower wages and benefits. There are also lots of studies that show there are greater health and safety risks when there is a higher level of precarity—in particular, things like the risk of bullying, more aggression in the workplace and more harassment. Historically, it's particularly disadvantaged groups who have suffered the most from that.
It's not just about workers. Clearly, that's important, but there is also evidence that growing precarity in the public sector means that services decline in quality, in availability, in reliability and in terms of other indicators.
I'm sure you've heard before that it's hard to attract and retain the best and the brightest when you can't offer permanent and stable employment. It's equally hard for those workers to try to plan their futures, especially the young workers you may be wanting to attract to the federal public service.
There needs to be a commitment to full-time employment. There need to be incentives, and there need to be requirements that more full-time, permanent jobs be created.
As it stands right now, there is an economic incentive to create precarious jobs, because those contract, term and temporary jobs are usually cheaper. There is a big financial savings for the employer, but there is a huge cost to workers, not only in their pocketbooks but in their lives. There's evidence of the impacts it has on people's lives, their families and communities.
I'm suggesting and urging that you encourage the adoption of different incentives and requirements to change this trend. The first is to have the federal government make a formal, written commitment to create full-time, permanent jobs where practicable. That's something that should be negotiated between Treasury Board and the unions. The goal should be that we want to maximize those opportunities.
Secondly, all casual, contract, temporary and part-time employees should receive the same level of benefits so there will no more financial incentive in government to get contract employees because they're cheaper, and to improve the quality of their lives as well.
Thirdly, there should be a requirement for more annual reporting on changes in employment status in this category of the public sector. It's really important. It should be there in the public highlights of the public service employee employment survey and in the Employment Equity Act and the federal contractors program. Departments should be required to monitor and publish data in a way that would allow for actual transparency about what's happening with this really important employment indicator.
Finally, the data really should be published using an intersectional analysis. The federal government and StatsCan are increasingly moving to this more fine-grained level of analysis. It's broken down by gender and by different groups within the gender, so that we can better monitor the equity implications of precarious employment.
Thank you very much.