Being independently employed, earning a salary every month and yet living under the poverty line—it’s a contradiction that is an increasing reality for workers in the Toronto area, reported to be growing poorer at an alarming rate.
It is not certain that work is an effective solution to poverty. According to a report published in early February by the Metcalf Foundation, the number of working poor in Ontario has been increasing over the past few years. In 2005, there were 113,000 workers in financial difficulty, or 42% more than in 2000.
The capital itself has not been spared. While the suburbs of Mississauga, Richmond Hill and Markham are more affected by this impoverishment of the workforce, more than 70,000 of the working poor in the report live right in the city, with the most significant increase noted east of Yonge Street.
This data is all the more worrisome considering that Ontario has been harder hit by the recession than the rest of the country since 2006, the date of the last survey. Another aggravating factor is that Toronto has the highest cost of living in Canada, and the second most-expensive housing market.
Typical profile of the working poor
The ranks of the working poor share a number of common traits, with workers often having similar profiles and backgrounds. For instance, they hold jobs mainly in sales and service occupations, and are more likely to be immigrants and to live alone.
In addition, the working poor are less likely to own their own home, are only slightly less educated than the rest of the Canadian workforce and are younger than the working age population as a whole, with 63% between 18 and 44 years of age. Finally, unlike what is commonly thought, they work as many hours as do other workers.