Globally and locally, we are in the midst of a transition. This transition includes a recognition of economic uncertainty related to natural resource depletion, and the move toward a “green economy” as one way to address this. With this green economy comes the emergence of a variety of new “green jobs”. As signaled by policy initiatives, such as Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act1 and The Power to Live Green: Toronto’s Sustainable Energy Strategy2, green employment has become one of Toronto’s largest growing sectors in the labour market3. However, as a relatively new concept, there is still no widely agreed-upon definition of what defines a job as green, and how green jobs are differentiated from those in the mainstream economy.
At the same time, Toronto faces an increasing employment gap between its different communities. The poverty rate in Toronto has increased from 16.3% in 1990 to 28.8% in 2009 (compared to 19.5% across Canada)4. A disproportionate number of those living in poverty are racialized Canadians and immigrants, who are subject to unequal access to the labour market and inequitable income outcomes5. Many work at jobs that pay less than a living wage and so consign them to the ranks of the working poor, a category with up to 25% of the workforce in some Toronto Census tracts.
This period of change invites us to question whether the emerging green economy will simply reproduce the same structural barriers for diverse populations, or incorporate new opportunities for a more socially inclusive labour market. This work aims to shed light on this question by exploring the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders in Toronto’s green economy.
A printable summary of this research project is available here.
1Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. (2009). Green Energy Act for Ontario: An executive summary. Toronto, ON, Canada. Retrieved from http://www.ontario-sea.org/Storage/27/1890_GEA_ExecSum_Jan-09-09_print.pdf
2 City of Toronto. (2009). The power to live green: Toronto’s sustainable energy strategy. Toronto, ON, Canada. Retrieved from http://www.toronto.ca/livegreen/downloads/2009-10_report.pdf
3Toronto Community Foundation. (2011). Toronto vital signs 2011: Full report. Toronto, ON, Canada. Retrieved from http://www.tcf.ca/vitalinitiatives/vitalsigns.html
4United Way of Toronto. (2007). Losing ground: The persistent growth of family poverty in Canada’s largest city. Toronto, ON, Canada: United Way of Greater Toronto. Retrieved from http://www.unitedwaytoronto.com/downloads/whatWeDo/reports/LosingGround-fullReport.pdf
5Galabuzi, G-E. (2006). Canada’s economic apartheid: The social exclusion of racialized groups in the new century. Toronto, ON, Canada: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Lewchuk, W., Lafleche, M., Dyson, D., Goldring, L., Meisner, A., Procyk, S., Rosen, D., Shields, J., Viducis, P., Vrankulj, S. (2013). It’s More than Poverty: Employment Precarity and Household Well being. Toronto: Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario Research Alliance. Retrieved from http://pepsouwt.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/its-more-than-poverty-feb-2013.pdf
Wilson, R.M., P. Landolt, Y.B. Shakya, G. Galabuzi, Z. Zahoorunissa, D. Pham, F. Cabrera, S. Dahy, and M-P. Joly. (2011). Working Rough, Living Poor: Employment and Income Insecurities Faced by Racialized Groups in the Black Creek Area and their Impacts on Health. Toronto: Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services. Retrieved from http://accessalliance.ca/sites/accessalliance/files/documents/Access%20Alliance_Working%20Rough%20Living%20Poor%20Final%20Report%20June%202011.pdf