Labor market policies are very important because they define the relationship between the government and the employer. Many countries across the world have been developing these policies to help protect the interests of both the employees and the employer. According to Haddow and Klassen (16), in many countries, governments are the leading employers. Developing a working relationship with its employees is always a priority in order to avoid cases of disagreements that may stall development processes.
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For this reason, governments are always keen on developing policies that fosters a working relationship between the employers and the employees. Canada is one of the countries that have been keen on protecting the interests of both the employer and the employees. The government has the responsibility of protecting the citizens of this country from unfair trading practices from the unscrupulous business entities.
Similarly, it has a responsibility of protecting the employers from unfair industrial actions organized by employees’ unions that may be demanding what the organization cannot offer. The government has the responsibility of developing policies that will be seen as being fair to all.
Given the fact that the provinces in Canada are run semi-autonomously, the labor market policies differ from one state to the other. The world has experienced various changes in the labor market, and the rate at which provinces in this country respond to them is different. This research will compare labor market policies in Quebec and British Columbia.
When conducting research, there are numerous challenges that a researcher may face which may affect the outcome of the study. One of the main challenges that a researcher faces when collecting data from the field is the amount of irrelevant information that have the potential of misleading the outcome of the study.
Research questions play an important role in guiding the researcher on the specific information that one should seek for while in the field. Through the research questions, a researcher is able to understand the specific materials with the relevant data that is desired in the study. The following are some of the research questions that will be used in this study.
The first question will focus on determining major similarities between the labor market policies in Quebec and that of the British Columbia. The second question will seek to determine some of the differences between the labor market policies in Quebec and that of the British Columbia.
The final question will address factors that define the labor market policies in these two provinces. The above three questions will be used to define the nature of information that the researcher seeks to collect from the field. Finding concise answers to these questions will help in achieving the objectives of the study.
The Provinces to be Compared
In this study, the researcher decided to compare two provinces within the united Canada in order to determine the nature of their labor market policies. The two provinces chosen for this study were Quebec and the British Columbia. According to Haddow and Klassen (27), labor market policies are largely influenced by the political atmosphere within a given country or region.
The political structure within a given administrative region always defines the goodwill to change specific labor laws in order to favor a given group of people. The two provinces were chosen because of some fundamental differences that they have. It was noted that Quebec is the only province in Canada that has the largest population of French Speaking nationals. On the other hand, the British Columbia is dominated by the English speaking Canadians. Another unique factor that was identified was the difference in political ideologies.
In Quebec, there has been clamor for independence, something that has not been seen in the British Columbia. This means that the nature of political atmosphere in these two countries is different. It was also noted that while majority of the employees in Quebec work in the service industry, the British Columbia employs more people in the natural resource sector.
According to Courtney and Smith (82), labor market policies are largely influenced by a number of factors such as the balance between the size of the labor market and the jobs available, government policies, and the power of the labor unions. Das (67) says that the British Columbia has been known for its strong labor unions.
The politics in this country is always focused on championing for the rights of the employees in various sectors. This is slightly different from what is happening in Quebec where politics has largely been dominated by the desire for independence.
Based on the above facts, it is possible to develop some hypotheses that reflect the topic of this research. The following are the main hypotheses developed, each for the two provinces under investigation.
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The first hypothesis proposes that British Columbia has labor market policies that strongly champion for the collective rights of the employees. The second hypothesis proposes that Quebec labor market policies are focused non-collective bargains where the employer and employee agree on terms of employment based on agreeable facts.
The researcher will collect information from the relevant sources in order to determine the truth behind the above three objectives.
Comparing and Contrasting Labor Market Policies in the Two Provinces
According to Tuohy (45), when analyzing labor market policies, it is always important to determine the specific issues that drive the formulation of the policies. The above analysis of the two provinces identifies the factors that make the two provinces similar in some ways, but different in other ways.
This means that the policies may be similar in some perspectives, but very different in other perspectives. At this stage, it will be important to analyze these similarities and differences in the labor market policies used in Quebec and that in British Columbia.
Similarities between labor market policies in the two provinces
There are a number of factors that make the labor market policies in the British Columbia and that in Quebec similar. According to Berry (112), Canada has a set of labor laws that govern the relationship between the employees and the employer. This scholar says that the government has made a deliberate effort to ensure that the employers respect the fundamental rights of their employees from various fronts.
For instance, the national government has set a minimum wage limit for all the employers within the country. Although each of the individual administrative provinces is given the mandate to set wage limits, they are not allowed to go below the set minimum as a way of enhancing the living standards of the citizens of this country. This law about the minimum wage is affecting both provinces. Employers in Quebec and British Columbia are both required by the law to respect these set minimum wages.
Unionization is one of the policies that have remained universal in the world. According to Noë (47), Canada is one of the nations that have embraced unionization as a fundamental right of the employees. The administrative authorities in Quebec and British Columbia both recognize the right of the employees to form unions that may champion for their collective rights.
It is common in both states to have cases where the unions represent the employees when negotiating on issues such as salary increase, improvement of the working environment, and other needs of the employees. Although there have been attempts in the past to eliminate or reduce the power wielded by these labor unions, the policies in these two provinces still recognize the unions as legal units. The unions still play pivotal roles in the formulation of policies that define the relationship between the employer and employees.
These unions are very strong among the large employers such as the government. Unionization of employees is becoming less popular in most of the provinces in Canada as the employees and employers start appreciating the need to have individual employee-employer negotiation packages based on the qualifications and value of the individual to a firm. This pattern is becoming common in both provinces.
Employee safety rules and regulations as set by the ministry of labor define the workplace environment that must be observed by every employer in all the administrative provinces in this country. One of the fundamental principles that are common in both Quebec and British Columbia is the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This Act specifies the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the employees are protected from any harm when they are in the workplace.
The Act was set to eliminate the increasing cases of accidents which were associated with the carelessness of the employers. The administrative authorities in both Quebec and British Columbia have modified this Act to fit into their local contexts, but the fundamental principles still remain the same.
For example, in both provinces, the law requires the employer to provide the employees with protecting clothing based on the work environment. The law also requires the use of posters to direct and warn people about some of the possible dangers they are exposed to when in the company, and how to behave in order to avoid injuries.
A striking similarity that was noticed between the labor market policies in Quebec and that in British Columbia was on health insurance policies. The political class in both provinces have been championing for increased healthcare cover of employees to cushion them against the increasing cost of healthcare services in the country.
Both provinces have enacted laws, based on the national requirements, which define the extent to which the employer is expected to insure their employees. The insurance policies in both provinces emphasize on the need for the employer to take the healthcare costs of their employees even after retirement if it can be determined that the health problem was acquired at a time when one was working in a particular industry.
For instance, if it can be determined that a retired employee has visual problem that relates to the kind of environment he was exposed to as an employee of a given company, then the company will be expected to cater for the associated costs of treatment as stipulated by the law of this country.
The Canadian ministry of labor has a set of Employment Standards that is commonly practiced both in Quebec and British Columbia. According to Reshef and Keim (78), Employment Standards Act, 2000 clearly sets specific regulatory policies that must be observed by both the employer and the employees within this country.
The law also requires employers to offer fully paid leave on annual basis. There are clear policies that provide for the protection of the vulnerable interns that may not have the full knowledge on how to handle various issues within the firm. The administrative authorities at the two provinces have also adopted policies concerning the need to fight discrimination against the physically challenged and the minority groups in the employment opportunities.
There is also a national law that is common in both provinces, that prohibits employment of children. In Quebec, the local authorities have been keen on implementing this law. The same has been the case in British Columbia as they try to combat child labor, especially among the immigrants living in the informal settlements.
Differences between labor market policies in the two provinces
Analysis of the labor market policies in the two provinces reveals some fundamental differences. As mentioned before, the national laws in Canada allows for the formation of employee unions. However, it was discovered that labor unions in British Columbia are very active as opposed to those in Quebec. Riddell and Hilaire say, “British Columbia is known for having politically active labor unions.” The political class has been actively championing for the rights of the employees and this has led to the formulation of local policies that empower labor unions.
Labor unions in British Columbia play an important role in various policy formulations that relate to the employees in this country. This is contrary to what is happening in Quebec. Although the national law concerning unionization of employees remains supreme, the local authorities have been championing for individualistic employee-employer policy agreements as long as they do not contravene the national law of the country.
In this province, it is common to find cases where people who are of the same grade at work earn different salaries. The employers are given the liberty to make the compensatory policies based on the knowledge, special skills and talents, and the importance of the employees to the firm. The employers are only expected to observe the bare minimum wages set by the national government.
This individualistic approach to employee-employer relation reduced the relevance of the labor unions. This explains why labor unions in Quebec are not as strong as they are in British Columbia. Employees are forced to champion for their own individual rights other than relying on the collective bargains championed by labor unions.
According to Banting and Medow (48), the economy of Quebec is heavily reliant on the service sector. On the other hand, the economy of British Columbia heavily relies on natural resources. The natures of these two industries are very different, especially in terms of the tasks that the employees are expected to undertake.
When extracting natural resources such as the minerals, employees are expected to use sophisticated tools and work in environments that expose them to the physical harm. This is quite the opposite when it comes to those that work in the service sector such as banking, insurance, and telecommunications.
The labor policies that are developed for those in these two sectors cannot be the same. This explains why the administrative authority at British Columbia has always been sensitive when it comes to the issues about safety and security of the employees. These are real threats that many employees in this province have to deal with on a daily basis.
On the other hand, the risks that employees face while at workplace in the service sector are limited. This explains why the administrative authority in Quebec has allowed employers and employees to come up with a working formula of employment as long as they observe the standards set by the national government.
The employment policies for the immigrants differ in the two administrative provinces. According to Haddow and Klassen (51), there has been a consistent rise in the number of immigrant in Canada. Although the government has policies that define the criteria to be followed when employing the immigrants, in most of the cases the provincial administrative authorities have stronger policies that guide this process.
Each of the two provinces has developed labor market policies that define how the immigrants can be absorbed into various employment opportunities. MacIntosh (39) says, “Immigration policy in Quebec comprises two elements: a quantitative element that addresses numbers, and a qualitative element that addresses the criteria that candidates for immigration must satisfy.”
Quebec has specific criteria that have to be met by an immigrant in terms of the level of knowledge, experience, and the legality of the immigrant to be in the country before he or she can be absorbed into the job market. The policies also set a specific number of immigrants that can be allowed into the job market at any given time based on the number of the citizens who are also looking for the same jobs. The policies are very strict, especially on the illegal immigrant, and all companies in this province are expected to observe them.
On the other hand, the labor market policies in British Columbia are very relaxed. Given the physical nature of the work in the mines, and the dangers associated with them, only a few locals are always willing to take up these jobs. For this reason, the local authorities encourage immigrant to take the jobs in order to propel this industry. This has forced the local authorities to abolish policies that are discriminative against the immigrants.
Labor market policies are very important because they help define the nature of the relationship between the employer and employee. It is very important for the employer and the employee to have a working relationship in order to avoid cases such as industrial action that may waste time and lead to destruction of property.
It is clear from the above analysis that Quebec and British Columbia have a number of labor market policies with a number of similarities and differences. The similarities are as a result of national policies and directives from the ministry of labor. The differences arise from the differences in the political and economic structures of the two provinces. Despite these differences, the following recommendations should be observed at the two provinces.
The researcher strongly suggests that he local authorities should avoid politicizing labor market policies by allowing the forces in the market to determine the employee employer relationship. It is also recommended that the authorities should create an enabling environment that will allow the employer and the employees to form working formula based on agreeable terms.
This can be done by formulating laws which are flexible and favorable to the players in the labor market. Finally, the researcher recommends that the local authority at the two provinces should avoid championing for unionization. This interferes with the natural forces in the labor market.
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