Changing work conditions in three provinces

In brief

  • Levels of job satisfaction among workers in Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan declined from 1994 to 2003-2005. Employees in these provinces were more likely to be working longer hours and doing rotating shifts in 2003-2005 compared to 1994. They were also more likely to report higher job security and fewer physical demands in 2003-2005 compared to 1994.
  • After adjusting for demographic changes in the labour market over this time period, workers also had lower levels of decision authority and co-worker support in 2003-2005 compared to 1994.

Why was this study done?

Using data from four Statistics Canada surveys, this study examined changes in work hours, work schedules, the psychosocial work environment and job satisfaction in three Canadian provinces, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan, between 1994 and 2003-2005. Studying and monitoring working conditions is important, since they can have an impact on the heath of Canadian workers and their families.

How was the study done?

The study looked at data from four Statistics Canada surveys: the 1994 National Population Health Survey (NPHS), and the 2000-2001, 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 cycles of the Canadian Community Health Surveys (CCHS). Three time frames were compared: 1994, 2000 and 2003-2005.These surveys collect information on health conditions, health behaviours and labour market conditions, among other things. For their analysis, the researchers only selected survey respondents who were paid employees, over the age of 25 and working eight hours or more per week in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. (These are the three provinces in which health regions included optional CCHS questions on psychosocial work environment.) This left a sample size of 46,998 respondents.

Within this sample, researchers looked at trends in work schedules (e.g. regular versus shift work), work hours (e.g. number of hours, weekend work), and the psychosocial work environment (e.g. decision-making authority, support from co-workers and supervisors, job demands, job security, job satisfaction). Labour market changes associated with age, education, gender and immigrant status were taken into consideration.

What did the researchers find?

In the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan from 1994 to 2003-2005, the labour market saw an increase in the age and education levels of employees, as well as an increase in the participation of female and non-Canadian-born workers. Overall, employees were more likely to be working longer hours and at non-standard times during the week (e.g. rotating shifts and on weekends) in the later years. When taking labour market changes into account, older and well-educated workers in particular were more likely to be working non-regular schedules in 2003-2005 compared to 1994.

As for psychosocial conditions, job satisfaction decreased overall from 1994 to 2003-2005. After factoring in labour market changes such as an aging workforce and higher education levels, decision authority and co-worker support also decreased. Since education is generally associated with higher decision-making authority at work, the results suggest workplaces are not accommodating the changing nature of the workforce.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

The study’s large sample size captured 65 per cent of the Canadian labour market. Nonetheless, only three provinces were included in the study, so findings cannot be said to reflect what is happening in Canada as a whole.

Publication Information

Title: 

Examining changes in reported work conditions in Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan between 1994 and 2003-05

Author(s): 

Smith P, Morassaei S, Mustard C

Journal: 

Canadian Journal of Public Health, 2011: vol. 102, no. 2, pp.127-132