Newfoundland Grandmother Embodies Growing Trend of Overworked Canadians Striving to Make Ends Meet

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Economic squeeze pushes locals like Kelly Young to extreme work hours just to afford essentials.

In the quiet hum of her kitchen, Kelly Young carefully shapes ground beef into makeshift steaks, an emblem of both resourcefulness and the relenting pressures of the post-COVID economy that many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians face. According to CBC News, Young, like a growing number of Canadians, is working grueling 70-hour weeks across multiple jobs, not for surplus or savings, but simply to cover the bare necessities.

With a laugh that echoes both her wry humor and staunch optimism, Young tells CBC, “I’ll make steaks out of that.” But behind her smile lies a stark reality: these are lean times, and there’s little room for comfort after the bills are paid. “You’re always kind of falling behind,” she confesses.

Statistics Canada paints a dire portrait of personal finance, revealing that as of 2023, one in three people holding more than one job do so out of sheer necessity—a significant increase from one in five just four years prior.

For Young, an office administrator by day and a server by evening, the unyielding work ethic is not a choice but a means of survival. Her story echoes a collective narrative in her home province, where the squeeze of inflation and rising interest rates has prompted Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier to beseech the Bank of Canada to reconsider its fiscal strategy. Premier Furey’s plea, captured in an open letter, underscores the devastating impact on an array of citizens, from first-time homebuyers to students and local businesses.

The toll of this economic strain is palpable in the legislature, too, where stories of families seeking multiple jobs just to feed their children are brought to the forefront by PC MHA Barry Petten.

This financial strain is not just anecdotal. An Abacus Data poll indicated a staggering 77 percent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians surveyed are either living paycheck to paycheck or falling into debt. The average cost of living, according to the Consumer Price Index, has surged by 4.1 percent compared to the previous fall, marking a 25 percent increase over the past decade, with food, shelter, and energy being the prime culprits.

Young says she can only comfortably afford the food her family used to eat because she picked up a serving job. Even so, she still finds herself cutting corners. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Young, who has traded up jobs since returning to Newfoundland for higher salaries and better benefits, finds the escalating rent and cost of living in Flatrock nearly untenable. Without her weekend serving job, the extras, from fresh food to the occasional takeout, would be unaffordable luxuries.

Dalhousie University economist Lars Osberg weighs in on the societal impact, drawing a distinction between taking extra work as a choice and the growing necessity to juggle jobs to make ends meet. He highlights the broader societal costs, from increased family stress and divorce rates to reduced community involvement.

For Young and her husband, the personal cost is evident in the moments they miss together. Their life is a stark contrast to the Sundays spent lounging before errands and chores consumed their rare moments of respite.

Young’s determination is fueled by the warmth of family, the comfort of her husband’s cuddle after a long day. Yet, the fatigue is undeniable as she grapples with the expectation that her daughter, who also works two jobs, should have to endure the same struggles.

This narrative, while individual, represents a larger, systemic issue that continues to challenge the fabric of families across Newfoundland and Labrador. Young’s voice joins the chorus of those asking a poignant question: “But why should she have to?”

“The cost of everything is just so severe that the kids are not living these days. All they’re doing is working to survive,” Young laments, summing up a sentiment felt by many in today’s society.