Capitalism is in the midst of a massive transformation from the old industrial-based system to a new knowledge-based economic model. Canada’s class structure is changing along with it.
The once dominant Working Class is in decline. Today, blue-collar occupations in manufacturing, construction, and transportation make up roughly 20 percent of the Canadian workforce. Two other classes have been on the rise: the highly paid knowledge workers of the Creative Class, who work in science and technology; business and management; healthcare, law, and education; and arts, culture, design, media and entertainment occupations; and the much lower paid Service Class, whose members toil in precarious low-paying, low-skill, routine occupations like food service, office work, retail shops, and personal service work.
This changing class structure is what has shaped the decline of Canada’s once robust middle class of higher-paying, low-skilled jobs and growing inequality. It will be impossible to create enough new blue-collar jobs or to educated enough Canadians into knowledge work. Overcoming the divide between rich and poor and rebuilding Canada’s middle class requires upgrading the country’s six million plus Service Class jobs into higher-paying, more secure, family supporting work.1
This report examines Canada’s Service Class and outlines a series of strategies to upgrade Service Class jobs. The first section looks at the growth and composition of Canada’s Service Class. The second section takes a deeper dive into the main occupational groups that make up the Service Class. The third section examines the geography of the Service Class. The final section looks at how Service Class jobs could be upgraded to help rebuild the Canadian middle class. The Appendix provides greater detail on our data sources, variables, and methodology.
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Exhibit 2: Change in Canada’s Three Major Classes, 2006 to 2016
Data Appendix: Service Class at the Metro Level in 2016
of Service Class Jobs
|Ottawa - Gatineau|
|Kitchener - Cambridge - Waterloo|
|St. Catharines - Niagara|
|Greater Sudbury / Grand Sudbury|
|Abbotsford - Mission|
1 Zeynep Ton, The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2014. Richard Florida, “The Business Case for Paying Service Workers More,” CityLab, March 3, 2014, http://www.citylab.com/work/2014/03/case-paying-service-workers-more/8506/; Florida, “This Holiday Season Let’s Turn Retail Jobs into Middle Class Ones,” CityLab, November 28, 2015, http://www.citylab.com/politics/2014/11/this-holiday-season-lets-turn-retail-jobs-into-middle-class-ones/383252/.