The call centre ‘effect’

I am fascinated by a new study out by Stats Can today that looks at labour and income trends. The study in fact confirms a few interesting trends that I have been tracking.

One, the rapid rise of females in the New Brunswick workforce. From 1995 to 2005, the participation rate for females rose from 71% to 80.5% (among 25-54 year olds) – below the national average but still an interesting trend given that the male participation rate for that same group grew by only 4.3 percentage points during the same time frame (second lowest participation rate for this group among all provinces in Canada). When you look at females with children under 6, the participation rate is 78% – well above the national average and third highest in Canada.

The only thing I can figure is the call centre ‘effect’. Call centres are still predominately staffed with females – the last survey I saw was close to 80% – with a bias towards younger females. That might be driving up the numbers. There has also been growth in other female-intensive work such as retail, food services, etc.

Two, the fact that NB has the second lowest rate of persons working at the minimum wage – only Alberta is lower. Now, we do have the second lowest minimum wage which may account for some of this. It is particularly interesting because the average hourly wage in New Brunswick is still second last in Canada (it used to be third a long time ago but only PEI is lower now – Newfoundland passed NB). So, what this indicates is that we must have a higher percentage of workers at lower wage rates (say less than $10/hour) while fewer at the bottom ($6.00/hour). Again, this might be the call centre effect. If you introduce 15,000 jobs and half of those or more are at the $8 – $11/hour range, you would influence this wage reality.

So in a weird way, overall wage rates in New Brunswick are stuck a bit because every government job created (health care, education, etc. ) are at a higher wage level but they are offset somewhat with jobs created by the private sector in call centres, retail, etc. which are at a lower average level.

Somehow, we need to get private sector jobs that pay above average wages if we are to see movement from 9th among the provinces for average hourly wages.