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For many people in Canada, Labour Day represents the final breath of summer. But this century-old Canadian holiday also represents much more than one last long weekend before the return to regular school and work routines.
Officially, Labour Day has existed since 1894, but its roots can be traced to events organized by the country’s skilled workers and craft unions in the 1880s-1890s. It was initially intended as a tribute to Canada’s labour movement, recognizing and honouring the contributions and achievements of workers and serving as a reminder of the progress made in improving workers' rights and conditions while also acknowledging the vital role that workers play in shaping Canada’s economy and society.1 Today, Labour Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the current state of labour and the labour market in Canada.
This Labour Day at LMIC, we’re asking: What do Canadians believe are the most critical labour issues of the moment?
We conducted a qualitative and sentiment analysis of what people in Canada are saying on Twitter
We leveraged the power of social media to conduct both qualitative content and sentiment analysis using Twitter as a primary data source and Meltwater as an exploration tool. (Twitter recently rebranded to “X,” but at the time of this analysis in July 2023 was still Twitter. We have retained “Twitter” and “tweets” throughout this article for clarity and ease of understanding.)
Combining qualitative analysis and sentiment analysis allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the content on Twitter, as well as of underlying sentiments.
Qualitative analysis allowed us to identify key themes, topics and patterns within the text, providing contextual insights into the content. It allowed us to delve deeper into the nuances of what we found, examining the underlying meaning and extracting valuable qualitative data.
Sentiment analysis systematically categorizes the sentiments expressed in the content as positive, negative, or neutral. It provided an objective measure of sentiment, allowing us to track sentiment trends over time and across different topics or user groups.
We chose Twitter as our primary data source because, despite the changes made to Twitter in 2022, the platform continues to be a valuable source for data collection. Twitter is a repository for information sources, reviews and open communication where users freely share their experiences and engage in discussions. Studies have shown that Twitter can be an excellent data source for analyzing events, capturing public sentiment and understanding social phenomena.2 In Canada alone, Twitter boasts approximately 7.9 million users, with around 40% of online adults having an account. Additionally, 29% of Canadians with multiple social media accounts report using Twitter more frequently than other platforms. These statistics and the platform's continued use in similar studies highlight Twitter’s continued relevance and significance as a data-rich environment.
Our analysis identified several labour market issues that have garnered significant attention and sparked discussions among Twitter users nationwide. The primary areas of concern we identified include wages and inflation, AI and the shift to a green economy.
To ensure the anonymity and privacy of individuals, the tweets mentioned in this article are composite examples, meaning they combine several tweets. These composite tweets were created to represent the sentiments and concerns shared by Twitter users across the country. Using composite tweets, we aim to protect the privacy of individuals while still reflecting on real-life experiences and discussions on social media platforms.
What people in Canada are saying about wages and inflation
Canadians are struggling with inflation.
With over 700,000 Canadian tweets focused on wages and inflation3 in just the first six months of 2023, our content analysis revealed that people across Canada are expressing widespread frustration and anxiety about the increasing wage gap and the rising cost of living.
Moreover, sentiment analysis conducted using natural language processing indicated a strong negative sentiment associated with these discussions, with users expressing feelings of financial strain and anxiety.
The cost of living reached a high of 8.1% in June 2022, as measured by the Consumer Price Index— the greatest increase in 40 years. Twitter users across the country are reacting, sharing personal stories and expressing concerns about housing affordability, groceries and other essential expenses. The discussions on Twitter revolve around the challenges individuals and families face as they grapple with the rising costs of basic necessities.
For example, contributing to the hashtags #HousingCrisis, #Wages and #Inflation, users shared:
"Rent prices are skyrocketing, but my salary remains stagnant. How are we supposed to keep up?"
"Life is more unaffordable than it has ever been in my lifetime. My family grew up poor, but we always had housing. I make a decent income but can't afford rent now."
"Dreams of homeownership are now beyond the reach of 85% of all households. While rising rents exceed the monthly pay of many people on low and middle wages. We need more homes to buy and rent."
These tweets highlight the concerns shared by many people in Canada who are struggling to afford adequate housing given the limited growth in their incomes.
Another common concern is the rising cost of groceries. With grocery prices increasing by over 9.1% this year, Twitter users across Canada reflect the collective frustration and impact of escalating prices on household budgets:
"Food inflation has been persistent, posing significant challenges for the more vulnerable segments of society. Rising food prices have placed a heavier burden on individuals and families with limited financial resources."
"As grocery bills continue to climb, wages are not increasing at a pace that allows individuals to keep up with these escalating costs."
Based on our analysis, we found:
What people in Canada are saying about artificial intelligence (AI) in the workforce
Our Twitter content analysis revealed that people from coast-to-coast are deeply interested in and concerned about the implications of AI and its potential impact on the labour market.
Sentiment analysis on AI and other forms of automation in the workforce revealed a mixed range of sentiments among Twitter users. While some expressed optimism and enthusiasm about the potential benefits of AI in improving productivity and unlocking new opportunities, others voiced apprehension and concern about its impact on job security and the future of work.
Some Twitter users conveyed a sense of excitement and anticipation regarding the new advancements in AI, recognizing the tremendous potential they hold for positively transforming the labour market. They point to the potential of AI to complement human capabilities, leading to increased productivity, the creation of new job roles and improved job quality:
"AI is revolutionizing the labour market, opening up new avenues of innovation and boosting productivity. Exciting times ahead!"
"Thrilled to witness how AI is revolutionizing industries and enabling workers to achieve more than ever before. It's incredible to see how technology is shaping the labour market for the better!"
"Humans and AI are joining forces to achieve remarkable outcomes. Humans bring creativity, intuition and ethical reasoning, while AI offers unparalleled computational capabilities and pattern recognition. Together, we can accomplish feats that were once unimaginable."
"AI is changing how we work, creating exciting new possibilities. Technologies like ChatGPT are leading the path toward automation, allowing us to focus on more meaningful tasks. Let's embrace AI's potential to boost productivity and drive progress."
Not all users shared the same excitement regarding the impact of AI or automation technologies on the labour market.
Almost one-third of Tweets on the subject from people in Canada represented a state of neutrality, with users seeking more information or awaiting further developments before forming a firm stance on the subject:
"Not sure how I feel about the integration of AI in the workforce. It has its advantages, but there are also potential challenges to consider."
"AI has the power to free workers and supercharge the economy—or just take a lot of people’s jobs, guess we wait and see."
While AI certainly holds the promise of increased efficiency and innovation, there is a prevailing worry about the possibility of large-scale job displacement, with over 50% of users in Canada expressing negative sentiments.
These individuals raise concerns about large-scale job displacement and the future of work, warning that the automation capabilities of AI could lead to significant workforce disruption across various industries, potentially exacerbating economic inequality and job insecurity:
"Unlike previous automation technologies that made tasks more efficient, AI has the potential to replace human decision-making entirely. This could lead to a significant loss of jobs without sufficient alternatives. As a result, a few people could become extremely wealthy while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet."
"AI's rapid advancement in the workplace comes at a cost. While software engineers may find new opportunities, the reality is that AI often replaces human workers. Self-driving trucks, for instance, provide jobs for software engineers but leave drivers without employment. It's a stark reminder of the trade-offs we face as AI reshapes industries."
"It's concerning how AI advancements are systematically replacing humans in various sectors. The focus on efficiency and cost savings often overshadows the impact on livelihoods."
Overall, our content analysis demonstrates the complex nature of public sentiment regarding AI and its impact on the labour market. We found:
What people in Canada are saying about the green economy and labour
Over the past five years, Canada has taken action to address the climate crisis and move towards a green economy, aiming to reduce emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve a net-zero emissions target by 2050.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, through our content analysis of Twitter, it became evident that the green economy has emerged as a significant concern and priority for people in Canada.
The discussions on Twitter reflect a growing recognition of the urgent need to address the climate crisis and transition towards a sustainable future, as well as concerns over potential job losses.
Some express unwavering support for the green economy, emphasizing the need for urgent action to combat climate change and protect the environment. They highlight the potential benefits, such as job creation, innovation and improved quality of life, and the importance of investing in renewable energy, sustainable technologies and environmentally friendly practices to build a greener future.
"To further the fight for environmental, racial and economic justice, we must invest in a green economy that creates good-paying jobs and guarantees clean air for all."
"The green economy is not only good for the planet, but it also presents incredible economic opportunities. By embracing renewable energy and sustainable practices, we can drive innovation, stimulate job growth and lead the way towards a greener and more prosperous Canada."
On the other hand, 26% of the tweets we analyzed expressed negative sentiment: many people in Canada view the shift towards a green economy with caution and skepticism. They raise concerns about the economic implications, potential job losses in specific industries and the costs associated with transitioning to a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy. These individuals call for careful planning, ensuring a just transition that considers the impact on workers and communities affected by these changes:
"The push for a green economy may cost us dearly. Industries like petroleum extraction and refining could see over a million job losses. We need to find a balance between environmental concerns and protecting livelihoods."
"Green jobs may not be as sustainable as they seem. Once the government subsidies diminish, these jobs can vanish. We must consider the long-term viability of green initiatives."
Based on this analysis of what Twitter users in Canada are saying about the green economy and the labour market, we found:
What we learned—and what’s next
This study used content and sentiment analysis to review what people in Canada believe are the most critical labour issues of the moment.
We identified three topics that are prevalent on Twitter: wages and inflation, AI in the workforce and the shift to a green economy.
Understanding common sentiments towards these issues provides valuable insights into the current concerns and priorities regarding the labour market. It contributes to a deeper understanding of Canada's diverse perspectives and priorities surrounding labour-related topics in Canada.
This analysis shows gaps in the kinds of labour market information (LMI) people in Canada have access to.
Canadians, it seems, would benefit from more comprehensive and accessible information on wages, inflation, the impact of AI on the labour market and the opportunities and challenges presented by the shift to a green economy. LMI can play a crucial role in providing the clarity people need to navigate these complex issues. As an organization committed to improving the accessibility of LMI, LMIC looks forward to continuing to foster dialogue and collaboration around the issues that matter most to people in Canada.
1 Heron, Craig, and Steven Penfold. The Workers' Festival: A History of Labour Day in Canada. University of Toronto Press, 2005.
2 Reveilhac, M., Steinmetz, S., & Morselli, D. (2022). A systematic literature review of how and whether social media data can complement traditional survey data to study public opinion. Multimedia Tools and Applications, 81(7), 10107-10142.
3 It is important to note that politically defamatory tweets were excluded from the analysis to ensure the focus remained on substantive discussions related to the topic at hand. This exclusion aimed to maintain the integrity and relevance of the findings presented.
Dr. Suzanne Spiteri is a sociologist with several years of experience in both qualitative and mixed-methods data analysis. She leads labour-related projects that explore labour market tightness and the labour market outcomes of under-represented groups.