COVID-19 Dents Canadians' Outlook On Employment, But Not Confidence in Their Ability to Bounce Back

TORONTO, ON - A new Environics Institute survey suggests COVID-19 did not dent Canadians’ outlook about the future or their confidence in their ability to bounce back quickly after hard times, even as the pandemic’s effects on employment began to be felt.

The Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, found that Canadians did not lose confidence in themselves or the social safety net as the impact of the pandemic set in. Yet confidence was greater among those with higher levels of education and income, with less secure workers less certain they can access the resources they need to weather the pandemic’s employment storm.

Workers say skills training contributes to their ability to succeed at work, but half the Canadian labour force has had no employer-delivered skills training in the last five years, the survey found.

“It is encouraging that Canadian workers felt equally resilient and supported by the social safety net before and after the onset of the pandemic, but many do not feel that support as strongly,” says Andrew Parkin, Executive Director of the Environics Institute. “One of our greatest challenges remains getting help to those who need it the most.”

COVID-19 caused a significant shift in Canadians’ outlook on employment, with more workers across the country reporting it was a bad time to find a job or that they were worried about job security for themselves or a family member.

The only province where residents did not register increased job insecurity was Alberta, where the level of pessimism was already very high.

The survey also shows that even before COVID-19, many Canadians were concerned about job security and had direct or indirect experiences with unemployment, with half of those in the labour force worried about their jobs pre-pandemic.

The survey provides insight into how governments and employers can prepare for the restarting of the economy.

Canadian workers appear open to new work arrangements that are more reliant on technology-assisted communication and collaboration, an environment many have experienced during the physical distancing period
Andrew Parkin, Executive Director, Environics Institute

But while the survey finds workers who access skills training feel positive about its benefits, many miss out. Only one in two workers has had any employer-delivered skills training in the past five years.

Older workers, non-unionized workers and those with low-income jobs are less likely than others to have participated in skills training.

Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre, says he hopes the survey will be considered a useful tool in rebuilding the economy because it points to Canadians’ resiliency, and where governments and employers need to target their efforts in supporting the return to work for millions of workers.

“Skills development is an essential part of a comprehensive strategy for economic recovery and rebuilding a better future for workers after a pandemic or any economic shock. Some sectors, populations and geographic areas will be harder hit than others, and governments and employers should be responsive to this,” Barata says.

“Some Canadians will experience more worry and economic hardship than others. Successful recovery and rebuilding efforts must consider issues of gender and diversity,” says Dr. Wendy Cukier, Director of Ryerson’s Diversity Institute.

The 2020 Survey on Employment and Skills was designed to explore the experiences and attitudes of Canadians related to education, skills training and employment. However, it was conducted between late February and early April when the serious impact of COVID-19 on Canada became apparent.

The survey of 5,000 Canadian adults in all jurisdictions across Canada was conducted either online (provinces) or by telephone (territories) between February 28 and April 4, 2020. About 2,900 interviews were conducted on March 9 or earlier, prior to the WHO pandemic declaration. About 2,100 were conducted on March 10 or later.