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Tracking the consequences of a part-time generation Add to ...

Like many millennials, Jenner Pratt knows only too well the “soul-sucking” challenge of finding full-time employment.

After getting the travel bug out of his system by working abroad as a teaching assistant and an editor in Taiwan for just under two years, Mr. Pratt returned to Canada last summer and began the employment hunt in earnest in July.

A paid internship at a downtown public-affairs company followed, before his quest ended successfully with a full-time position as an analyst at Gravity Partners Ltd., a business-management consultancy in Toronto, in January.

“It’s a full-time job trying to find gainful employment,” the 29-year-old says.

He was far from alone in his struggles. The lack of full-time jobs on offer has relegated many millennials in this country to settling for part-time work and temporary-contract positions. This situation is far from ideal, and one of the problems it creates is that it undermines any sense of loyalty between a worker and a company. This, in turn, can create a problem of perception about millennials.

Natalie MacDonald, co-founder and managing partner at Rudner MacDonald LLP in Toronto, says that millennials are perceived as almost flighty in the sense that they don’t appear prepared to commit and they seem ready to go from job to job as long as the work makes them happy.

“Employers tend to see [millennials] that way, and maybe that’s why they’re offering part-time work and contract work and temporary positions,” she says.

Part-time work is now very much the norm for millennials starting out in the working world. According to Statistics Canada, the rate of full-time employment for those between the ages of 17 and 24 from 2014-16 was 59 per cent for men and 49 per cent for women, down from 76 and 58 per cent respectively for the same age groups in 1976-78.

Another problem that Mr. Pratt discovered was that working in a part-time capacity had a limiting effect on his sense of adventure outside of work. With minimal access to health benefits or sick leave, even something as trivial as a running injury could be damaging to his income.

But in jobs where, as Mr. Pratt describes it, “You’re left to feel fortunate to have a job at all,” he didn’t feel in a strong enough position to demand more from his employers.

“Part-time work often means that you are replaceable, so I think there’s some apprehension to stir the pot, so to speak,” Mr. Pratt says.

Mr. Pratt is far from alone in that opinion. Peter Caven, a Toronto-based recruiter, says that millennials, in particular, “are very unaware of their legal rights and obligations.”

Part-time workers enjoy the same rights and protections as full-time employees, such as overtime pay and statutory holidays, and there is no law that says that part-time workers aren’t entitled to benefits. With contract workers, if an employer renews a contract with neither discussion nor negotiation with the employee, then it turns into an indefinite contract, granting the contract worker the same rights and protections as their full-time colleagues.

For millennials working part-time jobs, getting treated fairly can only help in fostering a sense of loyalty toward the company.

“Loyalty comes in my view from an employer who treats an employee right, treats an employee with respect and dignity and shows an employee that they care,” Ms. MacDonald says.

She argues that resolving the problem of part-time work requires a three-pronged solution: the various levels of government need to assist businesses with things such as tax incentives so employers can offer more full-time positions; employers themselves need to recognize some of the advantages of creating full-time jobs, such as employee retention; and millennials have to understand the need for developing a sense of loyalty toward a company.

“[Employers] want to ensure that we’re offering positions that are meaningful to our workforce so that they actually provide the employees who are … millennials with a sense of loyalty and a sense that they don’t want to go from job to job, that they want to work hard for the company,” Ms. MacDonald says.

Doing so will not only provide fulfilling, full-time jobs to the many millennials looking to get on the career ladder, but it will also have a knock-on effect on Canada as a whole, she says. One example of that would be the housing market, as without full-time jobs, many millennials aren’t able to qualify for loans with banks. But there are many other additional examples.

“It’s very important we understand this because if employees do not have permanent, full-time employment and they’re relegated to these temporary contact positions and part-time positions, they don’t have the revenue to invest in our country,” Ms. MacDonald says.

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