Precarity and its Impact on Household and Community Well-being


Project LeadsWayne Lewchuk (McMaster University), Michelynn Lafleche (United Way Toronto)

Research Team: Diane Dyson (WoodGreen Community Services), Luin Goldring (York University), Alan Meisner (QUANTACAN),  Cammie Peirce (CAW), Stephanie Procyk (United Way Toronto),  Dan Rosen (City of Toronto),  John Shields (Ryerson University),   Marcelo Castro (Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre), Peter Viducis (City of Toronto), and Sam Vrankulj (McMaster University)

Student Researchers: Janet Dassinger (McMaster University), Ivana Saula (McMaster University), Navjeet Sidhu (Social Planning Toronto)

Objective: The core of the CURA project is a population-based survey of households in the GTA and Hamilton. Its objective is to assess the relationship between precarious employment and community and household well-being including family stability, parent-child relationships, future population trends, and citizenship.

Key Research Activities and Methodologies:  Develop a survey based on a pilot survey already developed by PERG. It involved 4,000 individuals and included questions on: the form and prevalence of precarious employment; indicators of precarity (discrimination, harassment, training); household structure & employment; indicators of household and community well-being (participation in household activities, support for family members, socializing, child care, volunteering, community participation, housing, budgets, use of community services, burden on public social support systems); household formation/reproduction (single parent families; timing of household formation; attitudes to starting a family; and individual well-being. Conducted detailed interviews with people in precarious employment.

PEPSO commissioned Leger Marketing to conduct the PEPSO survey. The sample consisted of residents of:

surrounding GTA municipalities
(Ajax, Brampton, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, Oakville,
Pickering, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Vaughan)

Respondents were between the ages of 25 and 65. A total of 4,165 qualified respondents completed the survey. An initial pretest was conducted with 51 respondents from October 31 to November 2, 2011. The participants were randomly selected. The sample is representative by sex, age and the different regions that make up the GTA-Hamilton study area.

The majority of interviews (n=4097) were completed via random digit dialing. 4,032 surveys were completed between November 4 and December 18, 2011. Interviews were conducted in English. Leger was provided with a list of questions designed by the PEPSO research team. The average length of the survey was 15 minutes.

A second source of data was a series of interviews with individuals in precarious employment conducted between the fall of 2010 and late 2011. We used several methods to recruit participants. An advertisement was placed in the online and regional newspaper editions of Employment News. This job posting publication is free of charge and is distributed weekly across the GTA-Hamilton through street side boxes. It is often available at locations offering employment support services. Participants were also recruited through online postings on Kijiji and Craigslist websites. Postings were updated regularly and remained online for about a year. PEPSO community partners assisted in recruitment by distributing flyers throughout their organizations and networks. These include United Way agencies in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham, and Burlington and Greater Hamilton. They in turn distributed flyers to their partner agencies.

This broadened recruitment efforts to include a wide variety of community service providers engaged in the delivery of employment supports across the GTA and Hamilton region. To enhance efforts to recruit participants with young children, we enlisted the help of the Milton Community Resource Centre and Today’s Family Early Learning and Child Care. Flyers inviting parents to participate in interviews were posted in common areas in each centre. We also directed our recruitment efforts at people employed by McMaster University, in order to explore issues related to precarious employment among university support staff and contract academic workers. Recruitment flyers were distributed in a mass email to McMaster University workers through the email contact lists of CAW Local 555 and CUPE Local 3906. Several people who had recently been in a standard employment relationship and were now in precarious employment were recruited through the Progressive Moulded Products (PMP) Action Centre. The research team conducted the interviews in several locations including:

United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton
WoodGreen Community Services
Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre
519 Church Street Community Centre
UNITE HERE Local 75 Hotel Workers Co-op
PMP Action Centre
McMaster University.

A small number of the interviews were conducted over the phone when this was the preference of the subject. Each interview was about one hour in length. They were semistructured and open-ended in nature. Questions explored a range of issues related to employment relationships, employment history, household characteristics, children, family, and community engagement. In total, 83 individuals were interviewed. Just under half of those interviewed were born outside of Canada. Half were from racialized groups. 60% were female. One third were younger than 35 and just over half were between 35 and 54. Two thirds were living with a partner. Just over 40% had children living at home.