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Key Theme

Quality of Work

As Canada navigates continuing labour shortages in critical areas of the economy, policy-makers, employers and workers are thinking about how to recruit, retain and grow our pools of workers. Can improving the quality of employment through wages and benefits, social environments, security, safety and inclusion, and professional growth address the challenge? 

The Centre is investigating how a skills agenda could be tied to improving the conditions under which people work. We are generating awareness about the issues that affect work quality. We are convening workers, employer groups and policymakers. We are supporting research and facilitating efforts to experiment with solutions and document lessons learned.

Key Insights

In 2019, roughly one in four Canadian workers were in jobs associated with poor job quality, lacking good conditions ranging from pay and work intensity to skills and discretion, career prospects and the social environment.

Research on the post-pandemic labour market indicates that labour shortages in sectors associated with lower job quality such as retail and accommodation have grown, even as wages are rising in these roles more than in others. 

Only half of remote workers in Canada have been consulted by their employer about their future work arrangements. And only 40 per cent of this group were satisfied with their input into their employer’s post-pandemic work plans. 

How is remote work impacting workers and employers? 

Quality of work goes beyond income

The Issue: Job quality linked to productivity

Economic health is often described in terms of indicators related to growth and employment rates. Increasingly, however, there is growing international interest in connecting work and the economy to quality of life and social well-being. Various international frameworks are emerging to capture the multidimensional aspects of quality of work, including the ability to find a voice, purpose and connection from work, opportunities for advancement (often through training), and safe, supportive, and secure work environments with decent wages and predictable work hours. 

In 2019, roughly one in four Canadian workers were in jobs associated with poor overall job quality, lacking good conditions such as pay and work intensity, skills and discretion, career prospects and the social environment. Research is showing that quality work is associated with rising living standards, improved workplace productivity and overall social inclusion. In coming years, Statistics Canada will capture various dimensions of quality of work and provide an ongoing data foundation for policy-makers to think about trends in various occupations, sectors and populations. 

Today, skills and training programs often focus on connecting workers to in-demand jobs. Structural issues remain, however, within many forms of employment. The pandemic has shown access to quality employment is often beyond the reach of underserved populations. Efforts to improve work quality in sectors and occupations with lower work quality involve navigating complex and competing incentives among various actors.

Why It Matters

All members of society should have the chance to participate, belong and contribute in their best ways, reaping rewards and benefits that also strengthen our economic bottom line.

Improving Quality of Work will help drive labour force participation, worker motivation and retention, and, as a result, productivity for firms and sectors in the economy. Research on worker attitudes is increasingly showing that in addition to pay and benefits, job security, access to training, opportunities for advancement and autonomy are important for workers.

Employers in public and private sectors seeking to improve productivity and performance can benefit from taking these factors into account as they recruit and retain workers. Achieving meaningful improvement in job quality among sectors, occupations and roles will be a key policy challenge in the future.

Learn more about our research and projects focused on quality of work

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Breaking Down Barriers: Improving the Workplace Experience for Neurodivergent Canadians

In this research, we analyze the findings of 40 interviews with neurodivergent workers and employers…

Exploring the multiple dimensions of quality of work

While Canada's economy is navigating conflicting signals about its future path, current low unemployment rates…
Bicycle delivery person in red t-shirt and orange helmet holding a brown package next to their bike

Quality of Work: Literature Review

We’re exploring in depth the concept of Quality of Work. This literature review is the…