Labour shortage or reserve army of labour?

By Ivan Byard 

For months, the ruling class media apparatus in Canada has claimed that there is a critical shortage of labour. Last year, we were told that there were over one million job postings across Canada. However, a new Statistics Canada analysis proves that the headlines about a labour shortage are a myth. Jim Stanford, an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work, explained that the report demonstrates that the status quo is not hurting the bosses, but rather benefiting them:

“If you were really short of labour, and you couldn’t find someone to do that minimum wage job at a McDonald’s restaurant, then why aren’t they either increasing the wage or trying to replace the work with machinery? Neither are happening, which suggests to me that employers in general are quite happy with the current state of affairs, no matter how much they complain about labour being in short supply.”

The truth is that the ruling class monopolies and their spokespeople are trying to demonize the working class and pacify other segments of society that share a common enemy, big business, with the working class.

As Marx and Engels correctly outlined, the bourgeoisie wants a surplus of desperate workers who are underemployed or unemployed to drive down wages to no more than subsistence – a reserve army of labour:

“The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the workers, is of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible in relation to the demand for it… [the bourgeois has] the opportunity to watch the destruction of the proletariat by starvation as calmly as any other natural event without bestiring himself, and on the other hand to regard the misery of the proletariat as its own fault and to punish it.”

The ruling class in Canada wants to grow the number of unemployed people in order to lower wages. The lackeys of big business tell us that increasing the number of unemployed people will curb rising inflation, but the reality is wages are not the source of inflation. In Canada, corporate profits grew three times faster than wages between 2019 and 2022, and average real wages, accounting for inflation, were down over 5 percent in the same timeframe. As a share of GDP, after-tax corporate profits in Canada during 2022 equaled 17.4 percent of GDP – higher than any previous year in history. Compare that to the average corporate profits as a percent of GDP from 1960 through 2020, which was under 10 percent of GDP.

Canada has a larger share of the population with a college or university credential than any other country in the G7. However, there were only 113,000 vacant positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher in the fourth quarter of 2022, with over 227,000 people who held a bachelor’s degree or higher unemployed and seeking work during the same period.

Employment rose by 41,000 jobs in April, but the gains were made exclusively in part-time work. These 41,000 jobs represent a 0.2 percent increase in official employment, while there was also a 0.3 increase in population at the same time.

In fact, despite the constant cries from the ruling class media about labour shortages and record unemployment, official labour force participation is still more than 2 points below the January 2008 mark, before the burden of the economic crisis was placed on the working class. And in 2021, the proportion of employed workers in Canada who held more than one job was close to 2.5 times the rate recorded in 1976.

Food banks in Canada would not be seeing the record number of people going through their doors at the same time as grocery stores post record profits for their shareholders, if these grocery monopolies replaced part-time minimum wage positions with full-time jobs that have a livable wage and real benefits.

We need public monopolies on social services, both to create new full-time jobs and to increase the social wage: education, healthcare, childcare, transportation, culture, recreation and more. We need to issue the battle cry: no more defense against privatizations, now is the time for socialization!

We must also be in the struggles for reforms such as increased wages, shorter workday and work week with no loss in compensation, card-check certification for labour unions, and anti-scab laws.

Right now, the best weapon against the assault of the ruling class on workers is the “One job should be enough!” campaign of the Communist Party of Canada. The campaign calls for mass action:

One job should be enough – not the multiple jobs and low wages that millions of workers are forced to stitch together just to get by today.

What’s needed is mass public pressure to force them to act. The labour and democratic movements, youth, women, seniors, farmers, the unemployed, municipalities, and many others must unite around a mass campaign to roll back and freeze prices and rents. It’s in our common interests to do it.

With a minority federal government, a mass campaign that brings people into the streets in rallies and protests demanding price rollbacks has the leverage needed to compel government action. A cross-Canada coalition of organizations, with labour at its core, could be organized and move into action before more working people lose their homes, their jobs and their futures to corporate profits and greed.

Young people in particular cannot remain dormant in the face of the looming recession.

Urgent action is needed to build a working-class movement capable of winning reforms and ultimately class power.

[Reprinted from Rebel Youth]

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