Precarious employment in Ontario universities and colleges on the rise: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Fifty-three per cent of university and college workers in Ontario show signs of job precarity, a new study has found.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) analyzed Labour Force Survey data and surveyed faculty, librarians, and staff members to examine the extent of precarious work on campuses. The study found that 53 per cent of post-secondary employees in Ontario show at least one sign of precarious employment: juggling multiple jobs, temporarily employed, or completing more unpaid work.

“There has absolutely been an increase in precarious work on Ontario campuses, and that mirrors what we see happening across society more broadly,” said Erika Shaker, report author and CCPA director or education and outreach. “Precarity impacts the quality of work and life for employees – not to mention the education that students receive. Workers tell us they routinely cope with tremendous levels of stress and chronic financial instability.”

There has been growth in more precarious positions such as research and teaching assistants, the study shows. Meanwhile, the number of librarians – traditionally a more stable occupation – has declined, as a proportion of the total workforce in the post-secondary education sector.

Although there is no comprehensive data on the exact number of university faculty members who teach on short-term contracts, the study notes that the proportion of full-time university instructors has declined from 19.6 per cent in 1999 to a low of 13.6 per cent in 2014. It then climbed to 15 per cent in 2016. The proportion of part-time university instructors has fluctuated between 5.2 per cent and two per cent over the same period (1999-2014).

“Post-secondary institutions are well-positioned to take on a leadership role in pushing back against the rise of precarious, insecure employment in the province,” Shaker said, “rather than building a work model dependent on it.”

Read the study, called No Temporary Solution, Ontario's shifting college and university workforce, here