Tourism jobs are an important segment of BC’s economic mix and are often seen as the answer to a changing job market. But, there are issues for both the employee and the employer.
From an employee’s perspective the jobs are seasonal, often at the low end of the pay scale, ranging from a minimum wage job at $10.25 to a high of $18. An employee at the minimum wage of $10.25, with full-time employment, is left below the poverty level of $18,421 after taxes. With a monthly income of $1500 and rent of $500 not much is left.
Housing can also be an issue,with towns like Whistler, Fernie and Wells/Barkerville not having sufficient reasonable housing, or any housing at all, for seasonal employees. As workers seek a bed this often results in overcrowding, a low net income or commuting for an hour.
For employers some of the same issues affect their ability to find suitable employees at an affordable wage.
With the Canadian dollar at par, new US passport rules and a world wide recession, American cross border traffic has plumeted. Only 30 percent of Americans, for instance, have passports; and Canadian fuel is more expensive. Yet, at the same time more Canadians are taking advantage of our strong loonie to cross-border shop or travel south for vacations. BC businesses are reporting a drop in American visitors of from 10 to 60 percent. This means a shorter tourist season with more seasonal fluctuation.
In this economic climate a shorter tourism season or a decline in visitors can result in fewer staff being hired, increased layoffs or a shorter employment season. Employers can find themselves between a rock and hard place: they need a shorter season to maximize and condense income and minimize expenses, yet to find suitable employees they need to offer enough weeks for EI payments.
The general requirement for northern BC is a minimum of 23 weeks or 490 hours.
So, if an employer offers a full-time June to September job of 14 weeks, it will only just make the minimum hours required, but not the required number of weeks. Many employees who do not work in the winter will then be left without EI coverage.
So, shorten the season to reduce costs, and lose potential employees. A tough choice.
The solution is not going to be a quick fix Cariboo idea. It is a world wide recession, a border long passport issue and a national financial issue. But Caribooites and Canadians can help our local resorts and businesses by shopping local (not many in the Cariboo cross-border shop) and thinking more about staycations.