My best estimate is about 3.6 million ghosts in the void between Canada’s Labour Force and the Labour Force Participation Rate. They are the not still-in-school, retired, employed and unemployed members of the Labour Force.

If we assume that 50% of them are not working from choice or necessity, for example, parents who are no longer eligible for unemployment insurance and who are home with kids, we are still left with a pretty good-sized number.

GHOSTS – more commonly known as informal workers –are temporary and paid in cash (no EI, CPP, Income Tax or other benefits).  A considerable number of those are poorly paid – minimum wage or less – carrying out a variety of activities: child/ elder care, house cleaning,  ride-share driving, dog walking, freelance work like painting murals, web design work, or buying and reselling goods on websites like eBay or at flea markets. Some informal workers are also making a considerable amount of money because they have highly valued abilities and skills and choose to work outside the formal economy.

Temporary work has come to be known as Gig work.  Gig was a slang term coined by jazz musicians in the 1920s referring to their having obtained an engagement. 

The reasons for doing gig work (side hustles) include: unable to find a job and the bills have to be paid, add layer of income security due to economic uncertainty, supplement income (job doesn’t pay as much as wanted/needed), develop new skills, and to make it possible to manage a life or lifestyle where a regular job doesn’t work.

The Gig economy consists of both formal and informal workers who are:

  • People who have regular full-time jobs
  • People in part-time jobs who want or need more flexibility than is available in full-time jobs, or who can’t find a full-time job do gig work for those same reasons
  • People whose jobs have disappeared and aren’t ever coming back because the industry is declining and/or technology has reduced the need for human workers
  • People who cannot commit to, or don’t want regular employment, or who are outside the frame of being acceptable employees.

Stay tuned for more about Gigs and the future of work.

Ghosts in the Workforce