Students part of working poor numbers in Toronto

A recent study suggests that 63 per cent of the working poor in the Toronto region are between the ages of 18-44. PHOTO BY JEANETTE LIU

By Jeanette Liu
Political Reporter

Employment is often seen as a remedy for poverty, but the problem remains in spite of the number of full-time workers in Toronto, said a new study by the Metcalf Foundation, a Toronto-based NGO.

“Most of us believe that if you pay your taxes and work close to full-time you shouldn’t be poor,” said Colette Murphy, Metcalf’s program director. “Yet many people who contribute to their employment insurance, pay their taxes and work full time are still poor.”

According to The “Working Poor” in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing, the number of ‘working poor’ grew by 42 per cent in the city between 2000 and 2005, totaling 113,000 people. An estimated 73 per cent of those people are immigrants.

“The face of working poverty in our region is an immigrant face,” said Murphy.

While full-time students are not included in the study, young adults are.

Sixty-three per cent of the working poor population is between the ages of 18 and 44, according to the study.

Meanwhile, students are also struggling, and are encouraged to know their employment rights, said Deena Ladd of the Workers’ Action Centre, a Toronto-based organization which aims to improve lives and working conditions of people in low-wage employment.

“Students are taking on the same fast-food restaurant and retail jobs that other people are,” said Ladd, adding that, like older adults, young people are “also grappling with high housing costs and are dealing with the problem of not making ends meets.”

Humber career counseling co-ordinator Karen Fast said another contributor to poverty among both employed adults and students is a shift in priorities.

“They’re paying exorbitant bills for things like iPhones and laptops without considering what’s important and necessary to live,” said Fast.

Ladd said in order to combat working poverty the government needs to become more involved. “We have a Ministry of Labour whose job it is to enforce basic standards,” said Ladd.

“We need to ensure people are getting what they’re entitled to. It’s about putting it forward to the government.”

Individuals also need to be more realistic about their finances, said Fast. “Take the job that you can live on. And, take on another side job to make ends meet if that’s what it takes.”

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