Last week there was a great piece in the Facts & Arguments section of the Globe & Mail. Written by a young woman who was working in a contract position in the financial sector, she struggled to explain to someone who approached her on the street for money that she didn’t have any to spare. She was barely able to make ends meet on a meager, temporary income. Although she gave the appearance of being financially stable with her business files and tailored coat, on the inside of her coat the lining was frayed and coming apart at the seams.
It struck me that it was a perfect metaphor for where we are as a city after the recession. I know I’m always tempted to look at Toronto’s “coat” from the outside — after all, the malls are full of shoppers, there seems to be a new condo on every corner and headlines heralding economic doom and gloom are few and far between. We’re good, right?
Sadly, not so much. In December, Susan wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star that was a good reminder that the lining of Toronto’s coat is frayed. She warned about the hidden crisis that lurks below the job numbers and market statistics that seem to indicate we are slowly climbing out of the deep hole left in the wake of the recession.
In particular, the reality of optimistic job numbers is telling. Miles Corak, a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, wrote an article for the Globe & Mail discussing why the unemployment rate released by Statistics Canada isn’t an accurate measure of where we are in economic recovery. It doesn’t account for people who are working in part-time jobs but want full-time work, those who have experienced long-term unemployment and gone on social assistance or anyone who is self-employed or on temporary contracts that have uncertain futures and likely no benefits.
There are hardships people are facing every day in our city that aren’t reflected in the numbers or the headlines. It’s hidden underneath a coat that looks like economic recovery and prosperity. And now it’s our responsibility, all of us together, to repair it before it comes apart at the seams.