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Lars Osberg

A national unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent in 2017 or 5.8 per cent in 2018 is only ‘low’ compared to what Canadians have got used to. Between 1946 and 1975, Canada’s unemployment rate averaged 4.7 per cent and since then the labour force has become much better educated and considerably older, which should have reduced the unemployment rate significantly. This chapter asks what ‘full employment’ would look like in Canada in the early 21st century, how we might we get there and why we might want to. It begins by discussing why ‘full employment’ became a policy priority of government in Canada after 1946, but then disappeared after 1980 – collateral damage in Canada’s successful war on inflation. It then addresses the political economy context created by the 30-year stagnation of earnings produced by that policy decision. Recent econometric evidence on the possibility that lower unemployment might cause inflation is discussed. The long-term costs of inadequate labour demand and the available macroeconomic policy tools that could produce full employment are then surveyed. The chapter concludes that full employment can and should be reinstated as a major policy objective of Canadian governments.

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Lars Osberg

The chapter discusses how economic insecurity has been measured, and the implications of different measurement strategies. After clarifying the common conceptual elements in available definitions of economic insecurity, it presents a summary of the four main measurement strategies developed in the current emerging empirical literature on economic insecurity, which emphasize: (1) large income losses; (2) the buffering role of wealth; (3) income volatility relative to personal trend; and (4) the hazards of unemployment, illness, family break-up and old age. Although there is now no consensus on which measurement method produces the best explanatory measure of economic insecurity, results are qualitatively similar and robust across different methods. Concluding remarks emphasize the importance of economic insecurity for public policy.

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Lars Osberg and Andrew Sharpe