Social scientists adopted the term ‘precarity’ to describe states of employment that do not have the security or benefits enjoyed in more traditional employment relationships. These precarious employment relationships are becoming the ‘new normal’ for our workforce.
In its 2007 report, Losing Ground, United Way Toronto voiced the concern that employment precarity was aggravating many of the social problems facing the city of Toronto. This concern led directly to the It’s More than Poverty report, prepared by the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) research group.
Income inequality has been growing in the GTA-Hamilton labour market since the 1980s, and it is well established that poverty creates serious stresses on households. At the same time, the nature of employment itself has changed. Only half of the sample in the study that forms the basis for this report described themselves as having a permanent, full-time job with benefits.
It’s More than Poverty expands the discussion of the social consequences of Canada’s polarizing income distribution by examining the effects of precarious employment on people’s lives. It explores how employment precarity and income together shape social outcomes.
Precarity has real implications for economic well-being and job security of workers. But it also reaches out and touches family and social life. It can affect how people socialize, and how much they give back to their communities. It causes tensions at home. The It’s More than Poverty report puts a special focus on how precarious employment affects household well-being and community connections.
The report shows that employment insecurity has an independent effect on householdwell-being and community connections, regardless of income. That said, the study demonstrates how precarity greatly magnifies the difficulties of supporting a household on a low income. We argue that the social effects of precarity are a concern for Canadians at all income levels.
The It’s More than Poverty report draws its data from two main sources. The first is a specially commissioned survey that examined the characteristics of employment in the GTA-Hamilton labour market. We refer to this as the PEPSO survey. The second is a series of intensive interviews with people from our communities who are precariously employed.
We present key findings on five different questions related to employment precarity:
• How many workers are precariously employed?
• What are the characteristics of precarious employment?
• How does precarious employment affect household well-being?
• How does precarious employment affect children in the household?
• How does precarious employment affect community connections?