OTTAWA—The share of unionized workers in Canada has dropped by only two percent over the past generation, but union representation dramatically affects workers’ ability to move up the middle class ladder, says a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
The study looks at where unionized workers stand along the income spectrum in Canada, and finds that—especially during recessionary periods—workers with a union card are buffered from hard times and more likely to experience upward mobility.
“The findings suggest that there is a huge opportunity cost for workers who lose a unionized position, especially during recessionary periods,” says economist Hugh Mackenzie, who co-authored the study with statistician Richard Shillington.
“Conversely, workers represented by a union tend to move a rung or two up the income ladder. They’re not only better positioned to weather economic storms—they’re more likely to experience the Canadian middle class dream: upward income mobility.”
Among the study’s findings:
“We can expect the middle class to shrink and upward mobility to stall, as long as union representation continues to decline,” says Mackenzie. “Any policy discussion around middle class economics would rightly examine these startling trends and reconsider ways to facilitate the rise of collective bargaining in Canada’s future. The health of the middle class depends on it.”