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A foundation for everything we do

Through groundbreaking research, we can identify and better understand the issues that impact life in our region. By improving our understanding, we can then develop sound, long-term strategies for tackling persistent social problems. Research is what allows us to deliver results that make a real impact in our communities—and in the lives of all who live here.

Our current reports

Getting Left Behind

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Getting Left BehindThe third report in United Way and McMaster University’s PEPSO series on precarious employment examines who gained and who lost as the labour market improved between 2011 and 2017. Getting Left Behind finds that precarious employment has become imprinted on our labour market and the rising tide of economic growth did not lift all boats. When it comes to landing a secure job in a growing economy, a combination of gender, race and having a university degree determine whether or not you’ll get left behind. It concludes with a call for all sectors to take action and ensure that no one gets left behind. Recommendations include expanding decent work through employment standards and ladders to opportunity, creating a floor of basic income and social supports available to precarious workers, and ensuring that background and circumstances are not a barrier to the labour market.

Better Business Outcomes Report

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Report cover: Better Business Outcomes Through Workforce SecurityThe labour market is changing, and many workers today are in non-standard jobs. These changes have impacted both workers and businesses, and all across the country there are examples of businesses thinking about how labour market changes require new approaches to their workplaces. This research shows that employers who take action to make their workforce more secure find it’s good for business. Businesses that invest in the security of their workforce tend to have less turnover, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity. The good news is that many Canadian businesses are already leading the way.

Better Business Outcomes Through Workforce Security is a toolkit to help even more businesses move in the right direction. It’s made up of three components:

  • A business case framework that shows how improving workforce security benefits business outcomes
  • A number of successful case studies from a diverse group of employers
  • An assessment tool employers can use to identify practical steps they can take for their own workforces

The report’s goal is to give employers straightforward, incremental action they can take to help make their workforce more secure and strengthen their business.

The Opportunity Equation in the Greater Toronto Area: An update on neighbourhood income inequality and polarization

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The Opportunity Equation in the Greater Toronto Area

The Opportunity Equation in the Greater Toronto Area uses income data from the 2016 Census to provide the most up to date portrait of neighbourhood income inequality and polarization in the GTA. It shows that the gap between rich and poor has grown dramatically across our region. Across the GTA, middle-income neighbourhoods are vanishing, more neighbourhoods are low-income, and high-income neighbourhoods are getting richer. The picture is bleak in major cities throughout the country, but the gap is worst in the Toronto region. This report confirms the GTA’s unfortunate status as the income inequality capital of Canada. These trends mean that where you live increasingly determines your access to opportunity. This is a real threat to our shared value that everyone should have a fair chance to build a good life.

Understanding the Numbers: Working Together to Prevent, Reduce and End Homelessness in York Region

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Report cover: Understanding the NumbersAn estimated 235,000 people across Canada are homeless. We often think of this as a downtown issue, but homelessness in suburban communities is a challenge too. In this report, United Way partnered with The Regional Municipality of York to bring together two sets of important data: information gathered during a first-ever point-in-time count of homelessness conducted by United Way, and data collected by the Region through the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS). With this robust data, we learned that homelessness in York Region impacts people from every walk of life—but some populations are at greater risk than others. The information contained in this report will help United Way continue its work with the Region, other levels of government, and other partners to eliminate homelessness in York Region in ten years.

The Precarity Penalty Executive Summary: York Region

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Report cover: The Precarity Penalty Executive Summary: York RegionWe know that precarious employment is a serious and growing issue. Our research tells us that the realities of having an uncertain work schedule, irregular earnings and no benefits are having a negative impact on the wellbeing of residents across the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. We’ve now taken a closer look at the labour market in York Region and have uncovered some important findings. In our United Way and McMaster University’s report, The Precarity Penalty Executive Summary: York Region, we’ve learned that insecure employment isn’t just a downtown issue, it’s widespread across York Region. This report outlines this prevalence and illustrates some interesting comparisons too, and underscores our commitment to continue working across all sectors to make real change happen.

The Black Community in Peel. Summary: Findings from Four Reports.

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The Black Community in Peel. Summary: Findings from Four Reports.

This summary written in support of the FACES of Peel (Facilitating Access, Change and Equity in Systems) collective provides a snapshot of the social exclusion and discrimination experienced by many Black residents of Peel Region. Black youth report experiencing racism as a part of their everyday lives through negative media portrayals, under-representation in the workforce, treatment at school, and service providers who are ill-equipped to serve their needs and aspirations. Through qualitative data, socio-demographic profiles of the community and its neighbourhoods, a mapping of Black residents, and an inventory of service agencies that serve the community, the reports make recommendations for the education system, police services, municipal governments, community service agencies and funders.

 

On Track to Opportunities: Linking Transit Development to Community Employment and Training Project

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On Track to Opportunities Report Cover

Prospects for residents in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods can be bleak.  Unemployment rates are high. Access to services and supports remain a challenge.  Yet, in these very same communities, major infrastructure projects, such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, are being launched, bringing with them a demand for skilled labour.What if every time we put a shovel in the ground for infrastructure, we created new opportunities for those at risk of being left behind? That is the groundbreaking idea behind a new Community Benefits framework designed by United Way, community partners and Metrolinx. Based on two years of research and community outreach, this government-commissioned report outlines successful implementation of this bold new approach.

The Precarity Penalty: The impact of employment precarity on individuals, households and communities—and what to do about it

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

The Precarity Penalty report coverUnited Way and McMaster University’s report, The Precarity Penalty, looks at the impact of rising precarious, or insecure, employment in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. Precarious employment penalizes people across all income levels through jobs that offer lower wages, limited benefits and high levels of instability making it difficult to move onto better opportunities. The research also shows that the uncertainty of precarious jobs affects the health and well-being of individuals and families. The report concludes with tangible solutions that focus on modernizing policy and programs for today’s labour market. These include working together with our partners—government, private sector, labour and community groups—to enhance social and community supports, ensure that jobs are a pathway to income and employment security and build a dynamic labour market that responds to the needs of workers in precarious jobs.

The Opportunity Equation: Building opportunity in the face of growing income inequality

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Downdload the Full Report (pdf)

The Opportunity Equation report coverUnited Way’s new report, The Opportunity Equation, looks at rising income inequality in Toronto and its impact on access to opportunity. Research shows the gap between those who are doing well financially, and those who are not, has grown faster here than in other major Canadian cities. It also finds that hard work is not seen as a guarantee for success. People feel that circumstances beyond individuals’ control, like one’s postal code, family income and background, have become barriers to a good future. The report highlights tangible solutions including partnerships for youth success, community benefits and tools to promote quality jobs. It also calls on multiple partners across the city—including government, private sector, labour and community groups—to work together to mitigate the impact of income inequality in Toronto. 

Mapping the mental health system in Peel Region: Challenges and opportunities.

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The Opportunity Equation report coverThose dealing with mental health and addictions issues in Peel Region face a scarcity of services, excessive emergency room wait times, and long wait lists for services. While the population is large and growing, funding is not keeping pace and greater ethno-cultural data is needed. Personal factors like shame and stigma around mental illness are also significant factors preventing proper care. By identifying the gaps in service by both geography and type, this report helps hospitals, shelters, the municipality and other service providers make informed decisions about how to most effectively allocate resources.

Leaving Home: Youth Homelessness in York Region

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Leaving Home: Youth Homelessness in York RegionFindings reveal a more integrated systems approach is needed to prevent youth from becoming homeless and to stop the flow of young people from institutional care into homelessness. Early intervention was also identified as a preventative measure. The report has a major focus on prevention and is informing United Way’s role as the Community Entity of the federally funded Homelessness Partnership Strategy.

Closing the Prosperity Gap: Solutions for a More Liveable City Region

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Closing the Prosperity Gap - report coverUnited Way and the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s new report, “Closing the Prosperity Gap: Solutions for a More Liveable City Region”, outlines key issues influencing our region’s prosperity. These issues include: the widening gap in job quality; a growing gap between neighbourhoods doing well and those falling behind; and high rates of youth and newcomer unemployment and underemployment. The report also highlights some tangible ways forward including, community benefits, social enterprise and new zoning. It calls on civic leaders to work with community, business, labour and educators on solutions for this issue.

It’s More Than Poverty: Employment Precarity and Household Wellbeing (PEPSO)

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover: It's More Than PovertyReleased in 2013, this joint report from us and McMaster University examines changes in our local labour market. Of note, 40% of people are now working in precarious jobs (i.e., without benefits or with uncertain futures), which is negatively impacting their lives, their families and their communities. The Government of Ontario responded by investing $13 million in improved enforcement of the Employment Standards Act, and has introduced legislation to further protect precarious workers.

Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty (Declining income, housing quality and community life in Toronto’s inner suburban high-rise apartments)

Download the Excutive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover of Vertical Poverty: Poverty By Postal code 2

Released in 2011, this report examines the growing number of high-poverty neighbourhoods in the city’s inner suburbs—and the further concentration of poverty in high-rise rental towers in these neighbourhoods. In 2012, we launched the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative, which brings together stakeholders (in four pilot sites) to test strategies for revitalizing tower communities. The City of Toronto has since reformed zoning by-laws to promote neighbourhood vibrancy and development.

“…More than roads, sewers, stores and schools.”: Findings from our five-part Meeting House series

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1.	…more than roads, sewers, stores and schools" This report is a culmination of findings from United Way’s 2011 Meeting House series, a five-part community dialogue that explored the need for social infrastructure in York Region. The discussions brought over 250 residents, community groups, businesses and labour partners together to explore new ways to get ahead of pressing social issues.

The Needs and Challenges of the Chinese Community in Peel Region

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1.	…more than roads, sewers, stores and schools" This 2008 report summarizes a community forum conducted by the Chinese Advisory Council which validated and expanded on findings of a literature review on the needs and challenges of the Chinese community in Peel Region. Of primary concern were employment, language barriers, support for seniors, child care, and parenting skills. Recommendations encompassed systemic responses – to better inform the community about resources and supports, and provide more culture-specific services – as well as personal steps such as learning about Canadian culture and the job market before arrival, improving language skills, and networking.

A Preliminary Examination of the South Asian Population in Peel Region

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1.	…more than roads, sewers, stores and schools" This 2007 report relays the challenges and frustrations experienced by South Asian communities residing in Peel Region related to the community services sector. Residents expressed a gap between service providers and the South Asian community due to a lack of understanding of the varied cultures within their community, and the use of frameworks that are not always culturally appropriate. Ongoing dialogue, partnerships with community leaders, diversity training, and anti-racism frameworks were among the steps recommended to create an environment that is genuinely respectful, equitable, and responsive.

The Black Community in Peel Region: An Exploratory Study

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1.	…more than roads, sewers, stores and schools" This 2007 report summarizes the challenges impacting quality of life for many Black people in Peel Region. It outlines the diverse ethnic backgrounds, cultures, languages, and faiths represented in the community, and identifies common themes and recommendations. It also highlights some of the human services sector’s gaps in service type and delivery to Black residents of Peel. Among the issues raised through the statistical analysis, literature review, interviews, and focus group discussions found within are racism, intersectional oppressions, poor educational achievement, isolated elderly individuals, limited opportunities for youth, and limited capacity and resources of Black human service organizations.

Losing Ground: The persistent growth of family poverty in Canada’s largest city

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Report cover of Losing Ground

Released in 2007, this report examines the growing number of low-income families in Toronto (paving the way for our 2012 report on precarious employment). A key finding about the economic vulnerability of women led to our Women Gaining Ground initiative, which focuses on the education and employment of women. This research also influenced decisions in the Government of Ontario, which introduced a 2007 Poverty Reduction Strategy, supported a committee review of the Payday Loans Act, and brought about changes to the Employment Standards Act. 

Strong Neighbourhoods: A call to action

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Report cover of Strong Neighbourhoods: A call to Action

Released in 2005, this report from the Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force (comprising many civic leaders) called for a long-term commitment to strengthen neighbourhoods, through coordinated investment and local resident leadership. It led to our Building Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy, launched in 2005, which outlines a three-pronged approach for revitalizing 13 priority neighbourhoods in Toronto’s inner suburbs. The Government of Ontario aligned community-health-centre projects with five Community Hubs, the federal government invested in Community Hubs through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, and private-sector donors became more engaged in funding infrastructure and resident engagement. 

Poverty by Postal Code: The geography of neighbourhood poverty

Download the Excutive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover of Poverty by Postal code

Released in 2004, this report examines the increase (from 1981 to 2001) in the number of high-poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto—and how the concentration of poverty is impacting vulnerable groups. Supported by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, we came together with the City of Toronto to build an action plan for revitalizing Toronto neighbourhoods. This research and place-based strategy for improving social conditions were cited as a key influence on recommendations for improving supports for young people in our city.

A Decade of Decline: Poverty and income inequality in the city of Toronto in the 1990s

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Report cover of A Decade of Decline

Released in 2002, this foundational report examines how—despite a period of robust economic growth in the late 1990s—the gaps between Toronto’s rich and poor continue to widen. Findings have shaped a robust research agenda into issues related to poverty, marking the first time we identified investment in Toronto’s inner suburbs as an emerging priority. The research informed “Enough Talk: An Action Plan for the Toronto Region,” from the Toronto City Summit Alliance (now called CivicAction).