Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work. He divides his time between Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada. Jim is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union.

  • Globalization,  Research

    WTO’s Overreach Explains its Growing Irrelevance

    Contrary to the optimistic predictions of free trade theorists (and their seemingly scientific economic models), free trade agreements haven’t been beneficial for all participants in international commerce. Rather, for many reasons (including the emergence of large trade imbalances, deindustrialization, and lasting unemployment), business-friendly trade agreements have produced ‘losers’ as well as ‘winners.’ Moreover, losses have been concentrated in particular industries, regions, and social groups – fostering a backlash that has disrupted trade flows, and thrown into question the future viability of the WTO itself. Ironically, part of the failure of neoliberal trade policy rests with the overreach of those trade agreements (including the WTO), which have gone far beyond simply…

  • Commentary,  Future of Work,  Labour Standards,  Time & Working Hours

    Working From Home Helps, but is No Panacea

    A version of this commentary originally appeared in the Toronto Star. Millions of Canadians have been doggedly working from home through the pandemic. It’s inspired endless memes and laments on social media: Zoom meetings in pyjamas, kids running amok with office papers, super-sized data and electricity bills. To be sure, there are many economic benefits of home work. It maintains at least partial production, while respecting physical distancing and flattening the curve. On one hand, those who can work from home are lucky. They keep earning, but without the risks of infection facing those who must go out to work. But there are also many challenges and risks associated with…

  • Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Macroeconomics

    ‘Official’ Unemployment Just the Tip of the Iceberg

    This commentary was originally published in the Toronto Star. Statistics Canada has just released its monthly labour force report for April. It’s the first monthly release that captures the full extent of the COVID shutdowns; the previous report (which covered one week in mid-March) reflected only the initial stages of pandemic-related closures. By the time Statistics Canada did its April survey (during the week of April 12-18), millions of workers had stopped working. Not surprisingly, the numbers are grim. 2.4 million Canadians were counted as officially unemployed in April. That’s 13.0% of the labour force – bad by any definition. However, that statistic is only the tip of the iceberg.…

  • Commentary,  COVID,  Labour Standards,  Public Sector Work

    Trust has Hard, Economic Value

    The COVID-19 pandemic has proven, again, that society is not actually built around individuals all out to maximize their self-interest (as in the neoclassical fable). It works best with cooperation, reciprocity and trust. Valuing and investing in social trust is not a “feel-good” sentiment. It’s a proven, real source of economic and social advantage. Jim Stanford explores the economic value of trust, in this commentary which was originally published by the Toronto Star. The Economic Importance of Social Trust It was like a scene from a zombie movie: crowds of screaming protestors charged the doors of state legislatures in several U.S. states, opposing physical distancing restrictions. Many of them believe…

  • Commentary,  Future of Work,  Gig Economy

    Future of Work: Some Things Change, Some Things Don’t

    There’s been a lot of public concern and discussion in recent years about changes in the nature of work. To be sure, new technologies are changing many jobs, and new business models (like digital on-demand platforms) are deploying labour in new, ever-less-secure ways. But productive human labour, broadly defined, is still the driving force of all production. And inequality in fundamental economic status – between those who work, and those they work for – still shapes the way society operates. In this commentary, Jim Stanford identifies 7 aspects of work that have not really changed, despite the hype about the supposedly tectonic changes in the labour market. A version of…

  • Commentary,  COVID,  Labour Standards,  Wages

    Pandemic Forces Us to Rethink What Jobs are Worth

    This commentary originally appeared in the Toronto Star. After COVID-19, We Need to Appreciate and Value Essential Work In any public emergency, like the COVID-19 pandemic, society naturally turns to tried-and-true public service professionals for advice, protection, and care. First and foremost, we depend on health care workers risking their own well-being to care for the ill – even in chaotic and over-crowded conditions. Other first responders provide emergency assistance. Utility workers keep the lights on, the water flowing, the mail delivered, and the garbage collected. These jobs are critically important. These workers can’t take leave. They can’t work from home. Not coincidentally, most of these jobs are in the…

  • Commentary,  Macroeconomics,  Public Sector Work

    A New ‘Marshall Plan’ to Rebuild After the Pandemic

    Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford was recently interviewed on CBC News Network to discuss his proposal for a massive, government-led rebuilding plan to support the economy’s re-opening once the immediate health emergency of COVID-19 has passed. He stressed that private sector businesses will not be able to lead a normal ‘cyclical’ recovery, given the unprecedented speed and severity of the current downturn. Government will need to play a leading role in sponsoring new investment, permanently expanding public services, and expanding direct public job creation to help repair the shattered labour market. His conversation with CBC’s Natasha Fatah is posted here.

  • Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Industry & Sector

    Help Business – But do it Right

    Facing an unprecedented downturn in work, incomes, and spending, the federal government has rolled out major new support programs to help businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic. This support is essential. But government should learn from past experience, and design those support programs carefully for maximum effect and fairness. In this commentary, originally published in the Toronto Star, Jim Stanford identifies several best practices in supporting businesses and industries in an economic crisis. To Help Workers through the COVID-19 Crisis, We Must Help Our Businesses. Here’s How. In the face of unprecedented lay-offs from the COVID-19 lockdowns, the federal government is quickly shoring up Canada’s income support network. The new Canada…

  • Commentary,  Indigenous Labour,  Time & Working Hours

    Extending Unpaid Leave Provisions for Indigenous Democracy

    The Toronto Star’s Andrea Macdonald has uncovered a fascinating and inspiring story about Janna Pratt, an indigenous woman from Saskatchewan who has fought successfully to win the right to unpaid leave from work for workers to participate in indigenous elections and government. This victory extends provisions the right for workers to access unpaid leave for electoral campaigns, and (if successful) to serve as elected representatives in federal, provincial, and municipal government. It is obvious that indigenous government should be included on the list of applicable political processes covered by that provision. But Jenna’s successful campaign (waged with the support of her union, Unifor), has highlighted the surprising absence of basic…

  • Commentary,  Skills & Training

    Lack of Foresight, not Lack of Skills, is the Problem

    Training and skills are often held up as a ‘silver bullet’ for supporting transition and adjustment as the labour market changes. But is it true that workers lack the skills needed in the future economy? And will more training ensure they get jobs that actually use their skills? In this commentary originally published in the Toronto Star, Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford tackles some of the myths about training and jobs, and challenges employers to be more pro-active in developing skilled workforces. Employers Complain about a ‘Skills Gap’ in Canada. But Employers are Part of the Problem. With advances in technology remaking many jobs and industries, it’s not…