NL·Reporter's Notebook

The grind of working multiple jobs is very real. I know, because I'm living it

When reporter Sarah Antle began work on a series about people working multiple jobs to survive, she could relate. She's known that way of living herself.

Reporter Sarah Antle reflects on palpable exhaustion while working on a CBC series

A woman with glasses sitting on a picnic table with trees in the background.
For the past two months, CBC Newfoundland and Labrador has been working on a series called The Grind. It details the stories of seven people who have to work multiple jobs just to pay their bills.  (Mike Moore/CBC)

When I ask my friends how they are, the two top answers are "tired" and "still alive." Sometimes, I hear a sarcastic "living the dream." 

It speaks to an underlying cocktail of exhaustion and depleting mental health that is almost palpable. 

For the past two months, CBC Newfoundland and Labrador has been carrying a series called The Grind, which tells the stories of people who have to work multiple jobs just to pay their bills. 

It's a project that started as a notion — to look beyond the details of the job market and into the lives of real people coping with soaring increases in the cost of living. 

I've not only been a reporter on the series. I happen to be one of those people juggling multiple jobs. 

How we can help people escape the grind of working multiple jobs

4 months ago
Duration 3:13
Our series The Grind began with a troubling trend: more and more Canadians are picking up second jobs. Now that we’ve met some of them, we’re concluding our series with a question: what can we do to help?

I work at the CBC as a temporary employee, and I'm keen to develop my career in journalism. Because I do not yet have a permanent job, I am also a barista, and I work in arts administration, too. 

So when I had a meeting with executive producer Peter Gullage about a Statistics Canada report that indicated there are a million Canadians who work more than one job, it struck a chord. 

The report painted a bleak portrait: One in three people who work more than one job are doing it just to pay for the basics. That's up from one in five people just four years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many in the same boat

Unfortunately, it wasn't hard to find people who are in the same boat. 

It raised a couple of questions for me: If so many people are working day in and day out, why are we only hearing about statistics and prices? Who are those people? What are their stories? 

My colleague Malone Mullin came on board and we decided to do a portrait series — to look into the eyes of the people who are struggling. 

The consensus from the seven people featured in the major pieces in the series — and the experts we consulted — is that a lot of people are in an almost constant state of burnout with no end in sight and with little to no comfort along the way. 

People are working themselves to the bone to pay for the basics. 

This banking intern thinks about money non-stop, but can’t get ahead

5 months ago
Duration 3:19
Mika Purni works two jobs and juggles two side hustles to pay the bills. Despite the effort, she’s at a point where she can't bring herself to do anything unless she can monetize it. See Part 5 in the CBC Newfoundland & Labrador series The Grind, profiling people who work multiple jobs by necessity.

The faces of struggle 

In doing this project, it became clear that there is no metric for how tired people are. For most of them, there's no unscheduled time. 

Job precarity is not a one-size-fits-all problem. 

What became apparent is that the struggle varies from one household to the next. 

It can look like someone playing music on a stage and going to a desk job the next day, like Kelsey Arsenault. When we walked into her St. John's home, she sat on a piano bench and offered us a cup of tea. We looked at the instruments all over her mid-reno living room and talked about her first album.

Then we talked about her decision to give up her dream because she couldn't afford to live. 

It can look like a student juggling three ever-changing work schedules, like Shramana Sharkar, an aspiring geologist who admires her rock collection and tells us she can't survive without her three jobs. 

It can look like a woman with two full-time jobs finding time to see her sister every Friday, like Rebecca Gladney who cried when I asked if she could keep doing this. 

Mika Purney told us that she feels guilty when she doesn't work, knowing that she won't get the same paycheque next week. She's developed a scarcity mindset because she's worried she'll never be able to afford things in the future. 

Rafid Khan couldn't muster the words to say how working 18 hour days back to back affects his mental health.

Changing careers and leaving the city saved this single mother’s mental health

4 months ago
Duration 4:23
Stephanie Moyst was working herself to the bone, at 70 hours a week. Now, she still works multiple jobs — but it’s on her terms. Part 6 in our series "The Grind", profiling people who work multiple jobs.

"You can hear your body screaming for rest," he said. He told us he goes to bed with tears in his eyes. 

And the first time I spoke to Stephanie Moyst, she was sitting at her kitchen table, budgeting out her groceries in a small community she had just moved to in order to save money. 

Each of these people have a different set of circumstances, a different life, a different family and a different career path. But the common denominator is that each of them is struggling with the cost of living.

But all of them get up in the morning, work one job, then suit up for their second gig. 

And the next day, maybe after a couple of hours of sleep, they get up and do it all again. And again. And again. 

The expert perspective

We also spoke to economists and professors who contextualized all of these individual struggles within the Canadian economy. 

Karen Foster, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who studies the sociology of work, said, "we aren't meant to work 24 hours a day." 

"We're meant to have rest and have community time and family time and friend time and alone time," she told us. 

Julia Smith, a labour studies professor at the University of Manitoba, said people are asking themselves, "do I need to get a second job? Can I keep this job? Do I just cut back? Do I skip meals?"

​In the prime of her life, this woman had to take another job — just to pay the bills

6 months ago
Duration 4:02
Kelly Young says the rising cost of living has cut deeply into her household's income, and the family's well-being. Malone Mullin tells her story in the first instalment of the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador series The Grind.

It's a problem that stretches wallets and workloads across the country. 

And it's a problem that hits close to home. 

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives paints a grim picture of the wage report for Newfoundland and Labrador this year: $23.95 for Central, $24.20 for Eastern, $23.80 for Western and $26.80 for Labrador-Northern Peninsula.

But according to Statistics Canada, the median wage for a retail employee in this province is just under $20 an hour. For food service employees, it's about $16.50. 

I remember in October, PC MHA Barry Petten brought up a concern in the House of Assembly about one of his constituents who was looking for a third and fourth job to pay for his kids' lives. 

A woman with glasses wearing a grey sweater standing in a field with trees in the background.
The Grind details the stories of seven people who have to work multiple jobs just to pay their bills. I’m one of those people.  (Mike Moore/CBC)

"They're not looking for luxury," Petten said. "They're just trying to feed their kids."

It's a problem that resonates with so many people right now — single people and families, people just joining the workforce and people who can't afford to retire, international students and people who have lived here their entire lives. 

It's simply expensive to live. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Antle

Journalist

Sarah Antle is a journalist working with CBC in the St. John's bureau.

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