Toronto is Canada’s richest city. Its economy accounts for 11% of Canada’s GDP. Exports alone are equal to $70 billion in goods and services.
The city’s strength and competitiveness stem from its 11 key sectors that stimulate growth and help make the city relatively resilient to economic downturns. Toronto is a major information and communications technology and media hub. It’s also the financial services capital of Canada and the fastest growing financial centre in North America.
Toronto is a city that boasts both opportunity and services. But there is another side to Toronto.
Toronto houses Canada’s highest concentration of working poverty. It also has the fastest growing percentage of working poor in the nation. Right behind it stands Vancouver — Canada’s second richest city. In both cities working, poverty is growing faster than anywhere else in the country.
Canada’s two richest cities are becoming giant modern-day Downton Abbeys where a well-to-do knowledge class relies on a large cadre of working poor who pour their coffee, serve their food, clean their offices, and relay their messages from one office to another. This professional knowledge class relies on the working poor to maintain their gardens, mind their children, and clean their houses.
Less wealthy cities, like Montreal, do not have a large enough sector of high paid professional workers to support an equally robust cadre of service entry workers. The same is true for smaller cities.
To many, the fact that Toronto is a powerhouse but has significantly higher poverty levels will be seen as a contradiction. But viewed in the context of employment trends, it begins to make sense that Toronto the rich can also be the working poverty capital of Canada.
Over the past 20 years there has been consistent job growth in only two categories: professional/knowledge and service entry. All other job categories have been stagnant or have shrunk.
Toronto’s large professional classes are what make it an economic powerhouse. Toronto’s outsized service entry class, which provides services to its still rapidly growing professional class, is what makes it the working poverty capital of Ontario and Canada.
Toronto is not only defined by its large numbers of service workers — many of whom make minimum wage in precarious employment. Toronto has more irregular employment. Less than 50% of all jobs are full-time full-year compared to over 60% for Canada as a whole.
With 9% of its working population members of the working poor, Toronto significantly exceeds the average for all of Ontario (7%).
This article also appeared in the January 2019 edition of Haven Toronto's eMagazine, don't forget to subscribe!