The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: A closer look at the increasing numbers
“This is the third in a series of reports on working poverty in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) and the City of Toronto.
The first, The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing, published in 2012, compared data from the 2001 census to the 2006 census, finding that the number of working poor in the Toronto region and across the country was increasing at an alarming rate. Increases were seen to the east of Toronto’s central area and in the north, with a significant amount of intensification in the northeast corner of the city.
The 2015 report, The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: Mapping working poverty in Canada’s largest city, measured change in the working poor population from 2006 to 2012. Income tax data was used because of the loss, in 2011, of the mandatory long-form census. Although we drew upon income tax data as opposed to census data, the income tax data showed similar patterns.
For this third report (2019) the authors have the return of the use of the mandatory long-form census, providing quality data for 2016. They are, therefore, able to compare the number, characteristics, and neighbourhood concentrations of working poor households using comparable data from the 2006 census and the 2016 census. The census numbers of 2006 to 2016, compared to 2001 to 2006, reflect a slower rate of growth for working poverty.
The main takeaway from all three reports is that the rate of working poverty in Canada, Ontario, and the Toronto region is increasing. Underemployment, growth in low-wage service sector jobs, fewer hours available to each worker, and layoffs are part of what is driving the growth of working poverty. The growth in precarious employment and the gig economy have all come together to increase the number of people who are working for wages that cannot sustain them and drawing incomes too low to lift them out of poverty.
This report identifies areas in the Toronto region that have a high concentration of working poverty and describes general trends within the Toronto CMA and City of Toronto. The authors use disaggregated data from the 2016 census to explore how gender, age, education, racialization, and immigration status can help us understand potential underlying causes of working poverty.”
“In the Toronto region, working poverty continued to expand northwards growing by 27%, to 170,000 individuals, with almost every census track north of Hwy. 401 exhibiting more than 5% of the working-age population to be working poor. This growth is troubling, especially given the relatively strong employment figures in 2016 and increases in the minimum wage and new government transfers.
The return of the mandatory long-form census, in 2016, has been critical to help illustrate both geographic and demographic characteristics of the working poor. By disaggregating the data, Stapleton identifies how incidents differ according to gender, age, education, and ethno-cultural and immigration status. For example, in the Toronto CMA, 46% of the working-age population is racialized, yet 63% of the working poor are racialized. Some of the highest rates of working poverty are among Toronto’s Black communities. Dr. James and Dr. Hope provide contextual framing for how this data might be interpreted.
The goal with this report is to provide insight into Toronto’s working poor in the hope that this work provokes not only further research and analysis but also organizing and action on the divide in our labour force, and the need for higher wages, better job stability, anti-racism strategies, and more effective support programs.”
Download the full report
The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: Mapping working poverty in Canada’s richest city (2015) - John Stapleton with | avec Jasmin Kay
The Working Poor in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live and how trends are changing (2012) - John Stapleton, Brian Murphy, Yue Xing
Research at a Glance is designed to inform the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) community and other interested parties about recently published, policy-relevant research from government, academic and NGO sources. The views expressed in the documents described do not necessarily reflect those of IRCC.