Business lobby group says at-risk frontline workers are also among the ‘least productive’ members of society
As healthcare, education and retail workers head to work in dangerous conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, the Business Council of British Columbia would like everyone to know that some of the most at-risk workers are also among the least “productive” workers in the Canadian economy.
In a new report titled “Which industries pay Canada’s bills?” the business council ranks industries according to the amount of real income they generated per hour in 2019 to determine which sectors should lead Canada’s “post-pandemic recovery.”
Ranked at the bottom of the business council’s list are “educational services” and “accommodation and food services,” both of which contributed “$22” per hour.
Healthcare employees, who are currently working at the epicentre of COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, are placed near the bottom at 12th, while retail workers, some of whom are facing pay cuts despite staffing busy grocery stores and discount retailers during the public health emergency, are placed down at 14th.
At the very top of the list is “mining, oil and gas extraction,” a sector which receives billions of dollars in annual public subsidies. Mining, oil and gas contributes “$304” of real income per hour worked in 2019, the business lobby group claims.
According to the business council: “In simple terms, these sectors ‘pay the bills’.”
The quickest, surest path for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery is to fire up its big economic engines. In simple terms, these sectors “pay the bills.” #cdnecon #cdnpoli #economicrecovery #restarthttps://t.co/3jNifiKE4B pic.twitter.com/DbwlKQ2mlv
— BusinessCouncilBC (@BizCouncilBC) May 27, 2020
But Iglika Ivanova, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told PressProgress the business council’s measurement of “productivity” doesn’t make sense when determining how much employment sectors actually contribute to social programs:
“Looking at this and saying mining produces more money per hour of work, and therefore pays the bills, doesn’t follow, because there’s very few people who work in mining. Per hour, it looks very good, but there’s not that many hours worked … Mining, oil and gas employs 1% of the workforce in BC.”
Ivanova also explained that using “productivity” as a basis for determining which sectors should receive the most support during Canada’s post-pandemic recovery is misguided:
“We can’t not support health and education and expect it to help our economy, that’s not how it works … skilled and healthy workers make businesses more productive.”
A labour unions representing frontline workers also pushed back against the business council’s claims. Jennifer Whiteside, Secretary-Business Manager of BC’s Hospital Employees Union, told PressProgress:
“We know that labour-intensive sectors like child care, education, and health care, employ more workers, especially women, and create more jobs than many other sectors. We need to develop policies and make investments that keep communities and workplaces, particularly those on the front lines, safe.”
The business council did not respond to a request for comment from PressProgress.