The retail landscape in Canada is rapidly changing. The news that Hudson's Bay Co. has bought Saks is the latest story in what has been a particularly news-worthy year for the retail sector. Zellers locations were closed and Target stores opened. Nordstrom announced it will be moving into Canada. Sobeys bought Safeway, and mere weeks later, we learned that Loblaw and Shopper's Drug Mart were also merging. As for the largest retailer in the world, Walmart has plans to further expand across our country.
These high-level corporate decisions are made in boardrooms far from the daily lives of most Canadians. Yet retail is intimately connected with Canadian society. Retail reflects us, and it affects us, in significant ways.
Shopping involves the literal act of purchasing needed or desired goods, but is also interwoven with our identities. Individual products and whole brands are infused with symbolic meanings which convey messages about our tastes, style, priorities, and status. Whether obvious or not, underlying all of these symbols are the economics and culture of class.
In this flurry of retail mergers and expansions, there is a clear polarization of retail evident; one which reflects increasing inequality in Canadian society. Disappearing are the working and middle-class department stores of decades past. Instead, there will be luxury stores for the one per cent and the 10 per cent who have high credit limits, and discount retailers for everyone else.
Yet retail polarization is not only about shopping. Retail is the largest employment sector in the country. Retail salesperson is the most common occupation for Canadians, and has been for many years now. Canadians are far more likely to be affected by what kinds of jobs are created or lost in the retail sector, rather than what happens to stock prices.
Most retail jobs epitomize the scourge of precarious work. Retail jobs usually mean poverty-wages and income insecurity. Schedules are erratic, volatile, and provided at the last minute. Retail workers are often disrespected and dismissed as without skill, education, or value. In other words, retail does not simply reflect inequities. Retail contributes to increasing inequality. This needs to change.
Too many retailers perpetuate low-road management strategies which devalue Canada's largest group of workers, a majority of whom are women. This continues despite the growing body of evidence that better working conditions not only positively affect workers, but retailers and shoppers, too. Workers who feel valued and who are earning sustainable incomes are happier and healthier, as well as more loyal, productive, and engaged. So, whether interested in solidarity, economic prosperity, or better service, there are compelling reasons to revolutionize retail work.
More retail workers are joining a growing movement of low-wage service workers who recognize the need to transform lousy jobs into better jobs. Workers at Sirens in Brampton have just chosen unionization as a way to raise the standards at work, for example. These young women believe retail jobs can and should be good jobs, regardless of who shops in the stores and which brands are sold. Notably, Holt Renfrew workers have repeatedly told me that high prices do not automatically translate into high quality jobs.
Undoubtedly, the retail terrain will change, but retail jobs are here to stay. It is high time to look beyond the brands and the boardrooms, to how retailers of all kinds treat us. We are not numbers, nor are we disposable. We are workers, citizens, and people who matter.
Percent increase: 33.1 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 11,300 Median income: $94,990 States with the most jobs per capita: Hawaii, North Dakota, Montana Optometrists specialize in the care of eyes and vision. Their responsibilities include diagnosing eye injuries and diseases, as well as prescribing glasses and contact lenses. In order to practice, they are required to have a Doctor of Optometry degree, presently awarded by just 20 accredited programs, and must be licensed by the National Boards in Optometry. Those who meet these qualifications are often extremely well-compensated: the top 10% of optometrists earned in excess of $166,400. With vision problems becoming more frequent as people grow older, the number of optometrists is expected to rise by 33.1% between 2010 and 2020. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 33.5 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 36,400 Median income: $72,320 States with the most jobs per capita: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire "Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working," according to the BLS. Becoming an occupational therapist requires a master's degree, which generally takes two years to complete. The number of occupational therapists is expected to reach 145,200 by 2020, as an aging baby-boomer generation looks to maintain its independence and stay active. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 35.9 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 22,000 Median income: $82,040 States with the most jobs per capita: Montana, Colorado, Iowa "Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working," according to the BLS. Becoming an occupational therapist requires a master's degree, which generally takes two years to complete. The number of occupational therapists is expected to reach 145,200 by 2020, as an aging baby-boomer generation looks to maintain its independence and stay active. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 36.4 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 36,400 Median income: $76,700 States with the most jobs per capita: Massachusetts, California, Washington Though the roles of medical scientists vary from job to job, all study biological systems to understand their effects on human health. Medical scientists often work for the federal government, at research universities or in the private sector. By 2020, the number of medical scientists is projected to increase to more than 136,000, as the population of the United States grows and ages and the demand for prescription drugs rises. Educational requirements are quite high, with most positions asking for either a doctorate or a medical degree. The annual pay of the top 10% of medical scientists was $142,800. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 36.8 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 4,800 Median income: $66,660 States with the most jobs per capita: New Mexico, Colorado, West Virginia Audiologists treat patients who have problems with their hearing, balance or ears. A doctoral degree is necessary, as is a state license, though exact requirements differ by state. Explaining projected job growth, the BLS notes that "hearing loss increases as people age, so an aging population is likely to increase demand for audiologists." There are not very many audiologists, and a projected 36.8 percent increase in jobs would bring the total number of audiologists to 17,800 by the end of the decade. Annual salaries exceeded $102,210 for the top 10 percent of audiologists. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 37.7 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 68,500 Median income: $68,250 States with the most jobs per capita: Michigan, Utah, Idaho From 2010 to 2020, the number of dental hygienists is projected to rise by 37.7 percent to more than 250,000. Factors driving increased demand for this occupation include ongoing research linking oral health to general health, as well as an aging population keeping more of its teeth. Dental hygienists typically do not need a professional degree or previous work experience, though they often need an associate's degree and a license. Typical job responsibilities include cleaning teeth and taking dental X-rays. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 39.0 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 77,400 Median income: $76,310 States with the most jobs per capita: Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine Physical therapists assist patients by helping to address and correct dysfunctional movement and pain. They are required to have a postgraduate professional degree, typically a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and a license. Those completing these prerequisites join one of the fastest-growing professions in the country -- by 2020, the number of positions is expected to rise by 39 percent. The BLS states that "demand for physical therapy services will come, in large part, from the aging baby boomers, who are staying active later in life than previous generations did." The top 10 percent of physical therapists earned more than $107,920. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 41.2 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 116,600 Median income: $60,570 States with the most jobs per capita: Delaware, Massachusetts, New York Market research analysts work in most industries, monitoring and forecasting marketing and sales trends, as well as collecting and analyzing data on their companies' products or services. To become a market research analyst, a bachelor's degree is typically required, though many analysts have a master's degree. Citing increases in the use of market research across all industries, the BLS projects the number of positions in the field will rise to almost 400,000 by 2020. Top-earning market research analysts made more than $111,440 annually. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 43.5 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 23,400 Median income: $64,380 States with the most jobs per capita: Rhode Island, Florida, South Dakota Diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals and other facilities, conducting ultrasounds on patients and analyzing the resulting images. The BLS projects an increase of 43.5 percent in the number of positions between 2010 and 2020, which would raise the total number of such jobs to 77,100. Explaining the driving factors behind the growth, the BLS states that "as ultrasound technology evolves, it will be used as a substitute for procedures that are costly, invasive or expose patients to radiation." Sonographers typically need an associate's degree, and many employers prefer candidates to have professional certification. The top 10 percent of sonographers made more than $88,490 annually Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Percent increase: 61.7 percent Total new jobs (2010-2020): 9,700 Median income: $81,540 States with the most jobs per capita: Massachusetts, Utah, Minnesota The work of biomedical engineers typically involves designing or maintaining biomedical equipment, such as artificial organs and X-ray machines. These jobs often require a great deal of technical knowledge in fields such as biology, engineering, math and chemistry. Because of this, a bachelor's degree is typically needed. The professional requirements come with impressive compensation. The median income for such jobs was $81,540 and the top 10 percent earned more than $126,990. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of biomedical engineers is projected to rise by 61.7 percent, more than four times the projected growth rate for all jobs, which is 14 percent. To explain its growth projections for the profession, the BLS cites the baby boomer generation's growing demand for biomedical devices and procedures as it "seeks to maintain its healthy and active lifestyle." Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
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