Figures show that Canadian workers are not satisfied with the labour market.

Nearly 1,000,000 Canadians start taking on something known as “gig” work as their main job, Statistics Canada has reported. Approximately 871,000 Canadians said that gig work was their primary job in the fourth quarter of 2022. At the same time, an additional 1.52 million people on average, reported having done some freelancing, paid gigs or short term jobs at some point during the last 12 months. At the same time, it ought to be noted that many of these jobs were “cash” jobs.

The report by Stats Canada define gig work as being “a form of employment characterized by short term jobs or tasks which do not guarantee steady work and the worker must take specific actions to stay employed.”

Gig work in Canada is continuing to expand said Stephanie Ross a labour studies professor at McMaster University. She says, “it’s a good indication that the labour market is able to provide people with the kinds of jobs that historically have allowed them to have stable, full-time, full year employment”.

More than 300,000 full-time jobs in Ontario have disappeared since July 2022 according to Stats Canada. It also signals that people were dissatisfied with the extent to which those kinds of full-time jobs allow people the flexibility to manage work and other personal responsibilities Ross added. However, there’s a trade-off for some of the perceived benefits to being a gig worker.

The flexibility comes with the likelihood that they’re not going to be considered employees she said. That in turn cuts them off from accessing a whole suite of rights and entitlements that in Canada we connect to employee status and the Canadian Labour Code as well as, the tools that allow workers to act collectively to change and improve their terms and conditions of work.

In the third quarter of 2022, over 588,000 self-employed gig workers and those who works through digital platforms lacked control and access to full benefits and advantages typically associated with working for oneself, according to Statistics Canada. This includes freedom to hire paid help, choose their work hours or set their own prices.

The rising number of gig workers is also driven by newcomers seeking quick income. For example, the workforce for companies like Uber, DoorDash and Lyft grew 46% in 2023 to approximately 365,000 – up from 150,000 thousand in 2022, according to the most recent Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey.

Landed immigrants accounted for nearly 60% of the 365,000 people who provided either personal transportation or delivery services through an app or platform in 2023 compared with 53% the prior year.

This is a radicalize labour force where there is higher portion of people who are either immigrants or radicalized people who are experiencing discrimination or various barriers to entry into the labour market that offers full-time, stable employment so, in order for them to access a survival strategy the gig economy has filled that gap.

Under Canadian labour laws, gig workers are not entitled to benefits including unemployment insurance, sick days or minimum wage.

Ross said that, “the lack of employment rights in the gig sector will be normalized, in other sectors as the number of gig workers increases especially for employers who are already trying to figure out how to reduce their legal obligations and costs.”

It creates an environment where “gigification” isn’t just for platform workers – it’s something that other workers are going to be confronting in the future.

Ghada Alsharif is a Toronto-based work and wealth reporter for the Toronto Star. The Atkinson Foundation is working with the Toronto Star to increase coverage of issues related to income and wealth inequality. The Star created the Work and Wealth Beat to this end. The beat has been occupied by Sara Mojtehedzadeh, who is currently on parental leave. As the interim Atkinson Work and Wealth reporter, Ghada will continue on with the priorities established in the role: precarious work, labour issues, temporary workers and wealth inequality.