Is precarious employment the new normal?

Plus, how Patagonia retains its female employees, and what happened when Walmart loosened the purse strings

A weekly roundup of news and views on office culture, workplace trends, the daily grind and more

Temporary employment is the new normal, according to recent comments by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and young people need to get used to it. While these statements did not go over well with youth at a youth labour forum last week, it is undeniable that Canada’s economy and labour market are in the middle of a tectonic shift. Current trends, such as precarious employment and income inequality, are leaving more workers in part-time, temporary positions with few benefits and low wages. Is there anything that governments can do? Sunil Johal and Jordan Thirgood, authors of a forthcoming report looking at the suitability of Canada’s social policies amid today’s labour market challenges, argue that there is. Governments could quickly start moving to redesign Canada’s social architecture, with measures including the introduction of universal childcare and national pharmacare, to recognize this new era of “job churn.” (Globe and Mail)

How do you retain 100 per cent of the women on your staff after they have children? Patagonia, the outdoor wear company based in Ventura, California, has figured it out, with an extremely attractive benefit for parents: an on-site child care centre run by teachers and after-school care for employee’s children. The company’s iconic founders, Yvon and Malinda Choinard, started these programs in the 1980s in a simple response to what their employees needed. The results three decades later are not surprising: 100 per cent of the women who have had children at Patagonia over the past five years have returned to work, significantly higher than the 79 per cent average in the U.S. About 50 per cent of managers are women, and 50 per cent of the company’s senior leaders are women. (Quartz)

A few years ago, Walmart customers were fed up. They complained of dirty bathrooms, empty shelves and endless checkout lines. Only 16 per cent of stores were meeting the company’s customer service goals. The famously penny-pinching company’s response was revolutionary: it decided to pay its employees more. The results were higher sales and cleaner stores, and the experiment in paying “efficiency wages” has sparked a lively debate among ivory-tower economists, union-hall organizers and corporate executives. (New York Times)