Different challenges in accessing decent work are felt differently by diverse community members. People on social assistance face the limit of eligible employment income and the lack of supportive work environment; newcomer and immigrant members are being pushed into low-wage jobs due to unrecognized credentials and lack of Canadian experience; parents cannot afford to expensive child care services, which keeps them from taking work and training opportunities; and youth are hit hard by the disappearance of decent entry-level jobs that would support career advancement. A common challenge for decent work in Parkdale is the lack of supportive work opportunities that help people transition to better work and fulfill their personal aspirations. The other strand of the decent work debate in Parkdale is a changing commercial space. Community members raised a concern about the loss of affordable commercial space, local-serving businesses, and local work opportunities. The recent City of Toronto’s Parkdale Restaurant Study resulted in the bylaw that places the 25% cap on the percentage of restaurants and bars. While this bylaw is an innovative measure to control commercial mix, it could only address mix by function not by socio-economic and cultural diversity. Because commercial change in the neighbourhood is closely related to residential change, retaining affordable commercial space is critical for keeping Parkdale affordable and diverse.
While these challenges are systemic in nature and thus require structural reforms in labor market and city planning policy, it may be possible to remove these local barriers and to start to articulate a neighborhood-based vision for decent work, one that could support a broader movement and policy change efforts. Parkdale possesses considerable local economic assets for building decent work at the neighborhood level. A unique asset in Parkdale is the Co-op Cred program that addresses economic and food security challenges by offering supportive work placement opportunities for people in recovery from mental health experience and for newcomers; non-profit community organizations offer over 15 social enterprises and member employment programs in Parkdale. Our business survey identified 10% of the businesses have already promoted local hiring. One of the untapped community assets is large“anchor” institutions such as hospitals by repurposing and harnessing their considerable purchasing and hiring capacities to create community benefiting economic opportunities.