Auto industry decline hits young families hardest, study finds

A new study on the automotive industry shows that young families and people under the age of 25 have taken the hardest financial hit with the decline of the auto industry in Windsor.
A new report says while automotive assembly and parts manufacturing represented one in five full-time jobs in 2001, the ratio fell to one in eight by 2013. (File Photo)

Young families and people under the age of 25 have been hit the hardest by the decline of the auto industry in Windsor, a new study of the automotive industry shows. 

The report, put together by researchers at the Automotive Policy Research Centre (APRC) in Hamilton, shows the relationship between automotive manufacturing and healthy communities and economic status of families. 

Even with the closure of GM's Transmission Plant and Chrysler's Pillette Van Plant, the study chose to focus on Windsor.

"Windsor remains synonymous with the Canadian automotive industry," the report said. "This is due to its proximity to the U.S. Motor City of Detroit and the presence of the large Chrysler assembly facility, two Ford engine plants and a network of over 100 parts supplier plants."

The study says Canada's auto industry lost 53,000 jobs since 2001. Ontario lost 43,000 auto jobs during the same time, with Windsor losing 11,900 between 2001 and 2013.

The report says while automotive assembly and parts manufacturing represented one in five full-time jobs in 2001, the ratio fell to one in eight by 2013. 

"It's clear that automotive manufacturing plays a significant role in determining the quality of life for families in this province," Charlotte Yates, principal investigator of the APRC said. "This report helps illustrate that the families who depend on the industry for employment suffer real economic loss if these issues are ignored, particularly young families."

The total number of vehicle assembly jobs in Canada fell by 27 per cent, down to 14,300 jobs. The number of auto parts, body and trailer manufacturing jobs saw more erosion and fell 31 per cent, down to 38,900.

The study says young families between the ages of 25 and 34 have experienced the largest drop in annual income between 2001 and 2012 — a decline of about $18,000. 

People under 25 years old have seen the the largest drop of about one third in their annual income. 

"Our evidence suggests that automotive manufacturing is integral to sustaining healthy communities and the economic prosperity of families, particularly in Ontario," said Dan Irvine, the report's lead author. "Windsor has long been recognized as the prototypical automotive manufacturing city-region in Canada, and best illustrates the effects of the restructuring of the Canadian automotive sector."

Yates said Windsor has been more affected than other auto cities in Ontario because of its dependence on the Detroit 3, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. 

Wages are also on the decline, the report said. The average weekly wages, including salaried and hourly employees, in Canada's auto industry, fell 13 per cent to $1,216.67, according to the study.

The weekly wages in the auto parts sector fell 12 per cent to $939.67.

Average hourly wages in the auto sector are still well above provincial and national minimums, the report said.

In conclusion, the report says Windsor illustrates that "automotive manufacturing is critical to sustaining healthy and prosperous communities, particularly in Southern Ontario. Moreover, full-time, well-paying automotive manufacturing jobs contribute to federal and provincial government budgets significantly more than part-time, minimum wage jobs."