This is part three of The Grind, CBC Newfoundland and Labrador’s new series about people working multiple jobs to offset the rising cost of living.
Shramana Sarkar’s eyes light up when she starts talking about rocks.
The 24-year-old aspiring geologist is an assistant geosciences professor at Memorial University and takes her job seriously. After all, the reason she’s here in Newfoundland, far from her elderly parents in Kolkata, is to receive her rigorous education and eventually earn her Ph.D.
But in recent months, Sarkar has had less and less time to study, and the low-paying, precarious jobs he needs to survive here have ended his dreams of becoming a scientist.
Sarkar describes his chaotic schedule in his living room, barely large enough for a CBC camera.
“Sometimes it breaks.”
Watch | Accompany Sarkar in his daily work
It wasn’t always like this. Ms. Sarkar moved to St. John’s University in 2018 for her bachelor’s degree. At the time, she only needed to work one part-time job to earn her monthly rent. The going rate for her room in a house near MUN’s campus was $350.
But times have changed.
“Gradually, over the years, I started taking on more and more jobs,” she says. “I’ve seen one job turn into three jobs for her now.”
1 in 5 jobs are unstable
Sarkar is one of a growing number of precarious workers across Canada, according to an October report from the Canadian Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Precarious workers often don’t know how many hours a week they’ll work or whether they’ll be hired next month.
The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives suspects that one in five Canadian workers is in a precarious job. And even those who work part-time by choice. wages stagnate Compared to the cost of consumer goods, according to Statistics Canada.
“There’s a real fear there,” said Walid Hejaj, an economist at Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
“And I think what’s so sad is that insecurity affects the most vulnerable people more than the average person. That’s why there’s been a surge in precarious work, second jobs, The number of people who have to take on a third job is rapidly increasing. “
Hijazi wrote a book about Canada’s decline in prosperity compared to other developed countries. The country’s GDP per capita has been steadily declining compared to other economies, and that’s reflected in people scrambling to find extra jobs, second jobs, and second jobs.
Hijazi is not the only one writing about the trend.
“For generations past, young Canadians entering the labor force could count on favorable tailwinds to boost their real incomes throughout their working lives,” writes David Williams. policy expert In collaboration with the Business Council of British Columbia.
“That is no longer the case…young people entering the workforce today will experience no tailwind at all. Rather, they will face a secular stagnation in average real incomes that lasts for most of their working lives. .”
Now, Sarkar’s rent has doubled.The food is 20% more expensive More than two years ago. But her salary hasn’t kept up. And none of her three jobs, teaching or her two barista jobs, give her enough time to cover all the bases.
Her schedule is not filled with willpower. If rents and inflation remain high, she says, she will have little choice but to study somewhere more affordable.
Every morning, she says, she fights with herself to get out of bed, overwhelmed by the long day ahead.
“When you think you have to do so many things, it kind of paralyzes you,” she says. “And I can’t do anything about it.”
Sarkar says just one job, one that offers a living wage and more predictable work hours, would dramatically improve her life and allow her to focus on her education, which is what she came here for. says.
“I can’t imagine having so many things to juggle, such as different workplaces and different work environments,” she says. “It’s much more manageable as opposed to having to rewire your mindset to fit them every day.”
Julia Smith, a labor historian at the University of Manitoba, said Sarkar’s plight could be representative of countless workers across the country.
“I think a lot of people right now are finding it really hard to even get out of bed every day and keep going,” Smith says.
“Because you also have this feeling…things aren’t going to get better, and I think there’s a sense of hopelessness.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m going to work really hard while I’m in graduate school for a few years, and then I’m going to get that job.'” If you feel like you might not be able to receive a pension, you will lose a lot of motivation. ”
“There is no other way.”
According to Smith, precarious work has been the norm for the past century. That all changed nearly 70 years ago, when higher education and government policies encouraging unionization enabled workers to band together and fight for better wages and job security. .
“The problem is that in a capitalist system…the priority is profit. That’s the purpose of the capitalist system, to maximize profit,” Smith said.
“So we have a bit of a disagreement. We live in a capitalist system and expect a different outcome, which is that it gives us all good, meaningful lives. is.”
Behind the counter at Second Cup in St. John’s, Sarkars is smiling broadly as he steams milk for a latte.
She is grateful for the work. But she didn’t have to worry so much about money and barely think about rocks, running from class to her campus office to her house and then to the bus stop for work. She wishes she had.
She’ll be here making coffee for $15 an hour until 9pm. Then I would study, sleep, and do the same thing again tomorrow.
“I am alone in my struggle with this, and it happens every day,” she says.
“That’s the only way. There’s no other way right now.”
The Grind: Do you have a story you want to tell?
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