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  1. Toronto's two solitudes: Poor city beside rich city Nov 20, 2008 04:30 AM Comments on this story (3) David Hulchanski "We heard as well about parents whose struggle to hold down two or three jobs leaves them with no time or energy to parent, of youth being humiliated by the obviousness of their poverty, of the impact of precarious and substandard housing on their ability to study and learn and engage with friends, and about the numerous other daily stresses of living on the margins of a prosperous society." – Review of the Roots of Youth Violence, Vol. 1, p. 31. We learned last week that among the roots of youth violence is the lack of good jobs – jobs that support a family, jobs that support an average lifestyle, jobs that support good quality housing. Though we already knew this, as a society we need to stop moving in the opposite direction. It wasn't too long ago that our language did not include terms like "good jobs," "bad jobs" or "the working poor." How could you work and be poor? Many people today are working more than full-time and are poor. They have no choice but to live in the growing number of very poor neighbourhoods. Money buys choice. Many neighbourhoods are becoming poor in the sense that most of the residents are living in poverty, and poor in the sense that housing, public services and transit access are all inferior relative to the rest of the city. The growing polarization between rich and poor is happening in part because of the loss of average, middle-income jobs. There used to be far fewer concentrations of disadvantage in Toronto. In the early 1970s about two-thirds of the City of Toronto's neighbourhoods (66 per cent) were middle-income – within 20 per cent of the average individual in-come of the metropolitan area. By 2005, the middle income group of neighbourhoods had declined to less than one-third (29 per cent). The trend is the same in the communities around the city's boundaries – the 905 area. The number of middle-income neighbourhoods declined by 25 per cent, from 86 per cent to 61 per cent, during the same period. Now 20 per cent of the neighbourhoods in the 905 area have very low average individual incomes, compared to none in 1970. This income polarization – the decline of the middle group with growth in the two extreme poles – is not only a general trend among Toronto's population, but it also is the basis of where we live. The City of Toronto is now divided into increasingly distinct zones. One zone of tremendous wealth and prosperity, about 20 per cent of the city, is located mainly along the Yonge corridor and stretching east and west along Bloor and Danforth. Average household income was $170,000 in 2005, 82 per cent of the population is white, only 4 per cent are recent immigrants (arriving 2001 to 2006), and only 2 per cent are black. Some of these neighbourhoods are more white and had fewer foreign-born residents in 2005 than in 1995. In contrast, there is a huge zone of concentrated disadvantage. It is still located in part in the traditional inner-city neighbourhoods, but now is also in the inner suburbs, the car-oriented areas built during the 1960s and 1970s. This is 40 per cent of the city, about 1.1 million people. Close to one-third of residents live in poverty (are below the low-income cut-off measure used by the federal government). Only 34 per cent are white, 15 per cent are recent immigrants, and 12 per cent are black. Federal and provincial economic policies, while seemingly abstract and high-level, play themselves out on the ground in our neighbourhoods. Paying a growing segment of the population wages that do not support individuals, let along families, at a basic standard of living and a fundamental level of dignity is not sustainable. The now well-documented rise in income inequality, income polarization and ethnocultural and skin colour segregation are city-destroying trends. They are trends produced by commission and omission, by public and private sector decisions. We need to use our regulatory power for the common good to focus on improving the labour market through measures like a living wage and providing people with a voice in working conditions via a fairer path to unionization. One-sided policy-making is not only generating greater disadvantage, it is destroying the city as a great place to live and work. Nothing is trickling down. The city is increasingly segregating itself as the social distance between rich and poor increases. Immigrants are arriving in a very different economy than they did 30 and 40 years ago. A recent Statistics Canada study concludes, for example, "that the wage gap between newly hired employees and other employees has been widening over the past two decades," the "relative importance of temporary jobs has increased substantially among newly hired employees," and that compared with "the early 1980s, fewer male employees are now covered by a registered pension plan." In short, policies have allowed fewer jobs to pay a living wage with good benefits. This did not happen by accident. It is not only possible but essential that we have an economy with good jobs with at least a minimum living wage for all. We need public policies that support the goals of a just and inclusive society, and we have to ensure that the use of political power benefits the common good. These are key goals of the Good Jobs Coalition and form the agenda for Saturday's Good Jobs Summit. They are essential to reversing the city-destroying trends at work in Toronto today. David Hulchanski is a University of Toronto professor and author of the report The Three Cities within Toronto. This is one of a series of essays created for the Good Jobs Summit, which takes place Nov. 22 in Toronto.
  2. Canada falls behind in basic worker benefits: McGill study Doesn't measure up to other countries on sick leave, vacation time and breastfeeding breaks MIKE KING, The Gazette Published: 6 hours ago mike king the gazette Canada is perennially a top-10 finisher in United Nations rankings as one of the best countries in the world to live in. But a new McGill University study indicates that Canada lags behind many other countries on some basic worker benefits. The school's Institute for Health and Social Policy conducted recently an international survey that is the first research of its type to measure Canadian laws and practices vs. those of 180 other countries in such areas as maternity leave, annual paid vacations, sick leave and breaks for breastfeeding mothers. The Work Equity Canada (WECan) index, conducted by the institute's Jody Heymann, Martine Chaussard and Megan Gerecke, found Canada scores well for having policies that guarantee paid leave to care for dependents with serious illnesses. But Canada fared worse in other areas. The 78-page report notes: - In nearly 90 other countries, workers are guaranteed three weeks or more of paid leave a year, while most Canadian workers with a year's tenure are guaranteed only two. In Ontario, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, even workers with long service are guaranteed just two weeks of vacation. - At least 156 countries provide leave for sick workers, 81 of them offering full wage replacement. Canada guarantees just more than half as much, 55 per cent of insurable income, with most provinces and territories not guaranteeing job protection during leaves of more than 12 days. - More than 100 countries officially provide new mothers in the formal workforce with complete wage replacement during maternity leave. Most women in Canada are only guaranteed 55 per cent of their insurable income during maternity leave. Quebec is the exception, with women receiving 70 to 75 per cent of their insured income. - Since breastfeeding has been proven to dramatically reduce illness and death among infants and toddlers, 114 countries have laws guaranteeing women the right to a break to breastfeed at work. Not a single province guarantees the same benefit. On leave for dependents with serious illnesses, Canada is one of 39 countries with such leaves with pay and among them one of only 16 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members making the guarantee. Institute director Heymann notes there's a wide variation in laws and practices from province to province, especially when it comes to helping parents handle pregnancy and childbirth. "Quebec offers parents more choice, higher wage replacement rates and five weeks paternity leave for men's exclusive use," Heymann said. "In addition, Quebec allows self-employed workers to opt out into parental benefits," she added. "No such provisions exist for self-employed workers in the rest of Canada" - a group that makes up 15 per cent of the employed workforce. René Roy, secretary-general of the Quebec Federation of Labour, said he's studying the McGill report and isn't ready yet to comment on it. To view the full report, visit http://www.mcgill.ca/ihsp [email protected]