employment

Race, Class, and Bias in Hiring

At the start of a new year, a lot of people make resolutions for what they want to achieve in the next twelve months – and often those resolutions have something to do with work. The resolution could be to choose a new career, to get more education, or to look for a new job. So now is a particularly appropriate time to look at two recent studies about bias in employers’ hiring processes. The results of these studies demonstrate that job applicants can often be rejected for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their ability to do the job. And the studies also suggest that biased hiring has effects that go way beyond individual careers or workplaces.

These two studies used essentially the same methodology, which is (more…)

Job Churn and Precarious Work

I wrote an opinion article for the Report on Business section of the Globe and Mail newspaper, responding to recent comments by Canadian politicians that workers should “get used to” job churn and precarious work. You can read the article here.

Graduate Degrees and Low-Wage Work

Underemployment is a phenomenon in the labour market that doesn’t get a lot of attention. That’s partly because the term “underemployment” can mean a couple of different things. One definition of “underemployment” is part-time workers who would prefer to be working full-time, or who are actively seeking full-time work while working part-time. Those situations aren’t always captured by measures that simply count the numbers of part-time workers, because those data don’t look at workers’ reasons why they are working part-time.

Another definition of “underemployment” is workers that have higher qualifications than the requirements of the job they’re employed in. This is also referred to as “overqualification”. And there’s a new study with some fascinating data about underemployment or overqualification among people with graduate degrees. (more…)

What Do Universities Want from Employers?

Around this time of year, as university graduation ceremonies are starting to happen, there are usually more than a few news stories about the knowledge, skills and abilities that employers are looking for in university graduates. There’s also stories claiming that Canada has a “skills gap”: that new university graduates allegedly lack the skills that employers are seeking.

These stories tend to be very one-sided discussions, based on an implicit assumption that a university’s job is to produce what employers want. Obviously, no university student wants to spend several years and many thousands of dollars to end up being unemployable. But when all Canadian universities are struggling with decreasing government funding and increasing operating expenses, I sense an increasing frustration from universities that they are expected to respond only to whatever employers want. And, in my view, this frustration also results from a failure by governments and other stakeholders to acknowledge other purposes for university education – like producing well-rounded individuals that can become active and informed members of society.

There are great employers who understand what universities do, and why they do what they do. And there are not-so-great employers who don’t understand why universities won’t produce “better” graduates. If universities were to respond to those narrow-minded employers, what would they say? Here’s what I think it might sound like. (more…)

Precarious Work and the Failure of “Human Resource Management”

The Globe and Mail newspaper recently ran a very thoughtful article examining the growth of precarious work in Canada – people holding multiple part-time or temporary jobs with irregular scheduling. Not surprisingly, this form of employment is very attractive for employers, because they can quickly adjust the size of their workforce as needed. But it’s incredibly difficult for the employees, who usually take these jobs out of necessity, not by choice. Many of them have difficulty getting enough paid hours of work to make a living, and they also have to struggle to manage varying work schedules that can change with very little notice.

In the article, economist Jim Stanford is quoted as saying, “If you’re treating people like a disposable input, you’re not going to elicit a lot of loyalty and creativity.” This comment brought to my mind another workplace problem that, in my opinion, is part of the reason for increasingly poor treatment of workers: the failure of “human resource management” to combat the use of exploitative forms of work. When I say “failure”, I don’t mean (more…)

Flawed Data, Questionable Results: International Monetary Fund Research Gets Criticized

Research methodology scares a lot of people. There’s this idea that you need an advanced degree and very specialized education to design and conduct a research study. That isn’t always true – a lot of times, it’s just a matter of thinking logically about how to get and use meaningful data to help you understand a situation.

But researchers with advanced degrees and very specialized education, and working for hugely influential international policy-making and governance organizations – they know how to collect accurate data and analyze it appropriately. Right? Right??

Ummm….maybe not.

In March of this year, (more…)