Michael Hlinka: There are jobs if people are willing to work
- September 10, 2009 7:55 AM |
- By Michael Hlinka
Money Talks is a business column from CBC radio.
By Michael Hlinka, CBC business columnist:
There are signs that the economy is turning around … somewhat. But there are fears - and I think these are legitimate - that we might be looking at a jobless recovery.
Economic growth may turn positive, combined with persistently high levels of unemployment for a long time to come. And if this turns out to be true, then it strikes me, at least, that the Canadian practice of bringing in temporary workers to do jobs that we simply won't do, should be looked at very carefully. Last year, more than 190,000 labourers were imported - temporarily - into our country, to be shipped back out when their term of employment was over.
This practice is particularly prevalent in agriculture. Right now, as I speak, there are thousands of men and women, mostly from Jamaica and Mexico, toiling in Canadian fields, helping harvest the crops that contribute so much to our standard of living and quality of life.
What I find most stunning is not the sheer number of temporary workers, but the growth in those numbers over the past generation. Since 1980, the Canadian population has grown by approximately 25 per cent. Yet we're bringing in four times the number of people to do our dirty work. What this implies, of course, is that what was done largely by Canadians in previous generations is now being done by someone else.
There's a simple reason why this is happening. In the words of Ken Forth, the president of the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Service: "We need seasonal workers and we don't have enough Canadians that want to do it. It's as simple as that."
I find these words absolutely stunning … and disheartening. There has a continuous drumbeat this summer about the high rate of student unemployment. Thirty years ago, young people used to take to the fields of Canada to perform this necessary and dignified work. I have distinct memories of going to a wedding where very early in the evening the reception hall cleared, because people had to get up early the next morning for work.
No question that the work is hard. Wages are about $10 an hour. The days are long - 10 hours is typical.
Yet, we're making a decision: We're saying to our unemployed and students that we don't expect you to do hard work. No - just keep drawing benefits and taking out student loans, we'll bring in other folks … let 'em do what we refuse to, then boot them the hell out of here.
I hope that all of us keep in mind that if the recovery is jobless, it's not because there are no jobs. It's because we, as Canadians, choose not to do the jobs that are there.
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