Precarity in the Community Services Sector

We can work things out together

Project Leads: Donna Baines (McMaster), John Shields (Ryerson), and John Campey (Social Planning Toronto)

Reserch Team:

Student Researchers:

Objective: This project explores the impacts of precarity in the context of the non-profit social services sector (NPSS), seeking to answer questions concerning how precarity operates within this unique sector, how those in the sector understand and experience precarity, and promising practices that might provide solutions to this growing dilemma. Research to date suggests that the downloading of services from government to the community or NPSS has had negative implications for both users of these services and workers in the sector including a significant increase in precarious forms of employment (Cunningham,2009; Richmond and Shields, 2004; Baines, 2004; Baines, 2008; Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, 2006a & 2006b).

Key Research Activities and Methodologies: The project employs a qualitative case study methodology, with a special emphasis on immigrant community services which has a reputation as a set of employers engaged in precarious employment practices, often hiring from the ranks of those they serve, who in turn provide services to impoverished immigrants involved in precarious employment. Specifically, 3-4 study sites will be selected based on their capacity to provide telling examples of precarious employment, its tensions and its relationship to poverty. In-depth, semi-structured interviews will be undertaken with 8-10 players in each study site representing multiple perspectives and insights. This will normally include directors (1 per site), managers (2 per site), front-line workers (6-7) and union representatives where possible (1 per site), for a total of 40 interviews. Data analysis will draw on grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) within a critical framing (Madison, 2005). At the end of this study we seek to add to our understanding of how precarity operates within the NPSS, how workers experience and cope with this reality and possible solutions.