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SOCI 1F90 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Food Bank, Unemployment Benefits, Health Canada

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Michelle Webber
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SOCI 1F90: Introduction to Sociology
Midterm Test #3: Rethinking Society Notes
Date: Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
Chapter 19: Globalization, Precarious Work, and the Food Bank by E.S. Lightman, A. Mitchell, and D. Herd (pg. 203 – 215)
Structures of social risk have shifted dramatically over recent decades as a result of economic and social transformations
Primary among these is neo-liberal globalization: Within this framework are additional challenges such as a new post-industrial,
knowledge-based economy, an aging and diversifying population, the entrance of large numbers of women in the labour market,
and changing patterns of family formation and dissolution
Both individually and collectively, these transformations have created a range of “new social risks” such as precarious
employment and social exclusion
Highly divergent countries have all prioritized access to employment as the best way to deal with these new risks and to secure the
sustainability of welfare systems
Among the liberal states, such as the United States and Canada, a convention solidified around work-first approaches with an
emphasis on rapid labour force attachment through compulsory participations
The priority is on the first entry into the labour market – any job is a good job – as welfare recipients are believed to
stand a better chance of moving out of poverty and into “good” jobs if that are already working
Canada in a Global Context
The development of the global economy, characterized by intensification of international economic exchange, represents one of the key
challenges to contemporary welfare states
The need to compete in the globalized economy exerts a powerful influence over the policy choices available for welfare state
reforms and increases the likelihood of restructuring
The dominant form of globalization has been that of neo-liberal globalization
Strongly associated with the promotion of inequality and the removal of state-funded social protections as sources of “rigidity” in
the labour market
There have been unequal outcomes, both between and within states and among various groups
For some globalization has created unprecedented opportunities for growth and prosperity, but for others the realities of
globalization are widening poverty and inequality and increasing social marginalization and exclusion
There is evidence in Canada to suggest deepening poverty and widening inequalities, notably in earnings and income inequality and
increasing part-time, episodic, and contingent work
Fundamental shifts in the nature of work and the organization of labour markets with the goal of promoting productivity and
international competitiveness
In the 1990s, these was significant growth in “non-standard” or “precarious” employment such as temporary jobs, part-time employment
with atypical hours, own-account self-employment, and multiple job-holdings
Despite a largely positive economic environment and substantial growth in the educational attainment and experience of workers,
for many, work simply does not pay
As a result, many workers in precarious jobs have come to rely on social safety nets – both formal programs and informal
initiatives delivered by voluntary, charitable, and community-based agencies
Canada has witnessed shifts in federal and provincial social policy as safety nets have been restructured to meet the needs of the
new economy
With no enshrined right to welfare, no national standards, and no guaranteed right of appeal, this new post-1996 welfare framework bore
little regard for the realities of the lives of low income people
Workfare became not old an acceptable practice, but also a widely accepted practice across the country
Work-first welfare reform has resulted in many welfare leavers finding employment, but in jobs that are low paid and poor
quality, with limited job retention and even lower job progression
Restricted access to Employment Insurance reduced the proportion of the unemployed who had contributed and received benefits
Created greater demands on social assistance – welfare, while increased decentralization and localization associated with liberal
markets have placed increased demands on regional, urban, and local community sectors to deliver solutions to more complex
social problems, typically with fewer resources
One consequence of this erosion of safety nets has been an increase in hunger and food insecurity
The increased need for social safety nets is combining with the reduced availability of such supports to create a crisis in social welfare
Explores the question of whether people are better-off working at the precarious jobs that we associate with the globalized economy, as
compared to ongoing dependence on welfare
The author hypothesizes that people will not inevitably be better off working
Explores the experiences of two groups of marginalized people in Toronto
Group 1: at least one household member in the workforce but the support of the food bank is still necessary
Group 2: household where no one is working and the local food bank is being used
A common questionnaire was developed and pretested
People using the food bank were approached and asked to complete the pre-coded questionnaire
The goal was to interview roughly 3% of the users at each participating food bank

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Globalization and Food Bank Use
Investigated food bank users in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) from 1995 – 2005
Overall, the figures reflect the process by which globalization has extended the reach of the contingent labour market and created
significant new and broader groups of marginalized, unemployed, and underemployed workers
The period represents the “high water” mark of globalization in Canada, providing a favourable labour market for the operation
of work-first welfare reform
The average age of food bank users moved upwards by almost 5 years over the period, from 37 to 42
The percentage of food bank users who reported a disability or illness that restricted them from holding regular employment rose
from 30% to 41%
45% of food bank users were immigrants
The percentage of users who were employed but still required the assistance of a food bank more than doubled from 8% to 17%
The degree of hunger and deprivation of food bank recipients deepened over the period
Rose from 15% to 44%
Transformation of labour markets and welfare reform has changed the nature of the social assistance caseload from a predominance of
unemployed single persons to one with larger numbers of other family types
One of the central tenets of the globalized economy is that while lower-skilled jobs may migrate to lower-wage economies, education and
skill development will maintain the prosperity and standard od living of the advanced economies
One of the hallmarks of the era is the widening divide between the skilled and the unskilled
Work, Earnings, and Income
Education levels and employment histories of food bank users challenge the preconception that they are vastly different from the rest of the
Half of the food bank users had 15 or more years of work experience
1 in 6 food bank users were employed or lived in a household where someone was employed
Their precarious labour market status is reflected in their employment status: 62% were either part-time or on a casual or seasonal basis
working an average of only 27 hours per week and nearly half earned $10 per hour or less
The informal threshold for “working poor” status
Work and Well-Being
The question at hand is whether or not work improves household circumstances, particularly those who are the direct and indirect subjects
of welfare reform
Quality and Security of Housing:
In only 2 of the 6 indicators are the employed food bank users better-off than the non-working users
Equally likely to report that their residence was in good or very good condition
Employed respondents experienced a significantly greater degree of crowding
Only 67% of working respondents pair their rent/mortgage on time, compared to 82% of non-working respondents
Both experienced a similar risk of eviction
Self-Reported Health:
Working food bank users were more likely to report excellent or very good health
Working respondents were less likely to say that their were specific foods they required for health reasons
Both users were highly likely to report that there were foods they wished to have for their well-being, but could not afford
Family and Community Support:
Equally likely to say that they had a strong sense of belonging to their local community
Very few in both groups felt that their was someone outside their immediate household to whom they could turn for financial
support in an emergency
Working respondents were more likely to report that there was someone who could provide emotional support to them
Working respondents were more likely to say that they thought their circumstances would improve in the future
Household Income:
Employment reduced the reliance of respondents on food banks
Employment reduced the degree to which food banks were a regular part of monthly budgeting
The amount of family income derived from social assistance in working households was approximately one-third that of the non-
working households
Overall household income was approximately one-third higher as well
Household income as a percentage of the Statistics Canada Low-Income Cut-Off rose from 38% among non-working households
to 53% among working households
Driven by the demands of the neo-liberal globalization, precarious jobs have become increasingly common
The underlying logic of work-first welfare reform is that those who leave welfare and secure such employment will be better-off in work,
en route to a better life of autonomy and financial independence
In contrast, comparison of the experiences of two groups in Toronto demonstrates that their life experiences remain depressingly
similar in many regards

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In ongoing debates over the impacts of globalization, labour market transformations, and welfare reform, outcomes that result in precarious
employment are often equated with success
Fails to make clear the realities of continuing poverty, hardship, and despair
For those passing through the welfare system, the lack of investment in skills-based training, or education means that the vast
majority who exit assistance end up entering unstable, low-paid employment with no benefits
Such precarious employment does little to change their lives and provides little stability for future progression
The emphasis of policy dialogues has shifted in recent times to signal a shift away from narrow work-first models of reform to broader,
mixed models offering the pre- and post-employment services and supports necessary to make work both realistic and sustainable
Requires significant and sustained investment
Needs to challenge the belief that work of any kind provides the best, and frequently only, route out of poverty for all groups
within society
Chapter 20: Neo-Liberalism, Families, and Work-Life Balance by Kate Bezanson (pg. 217 – 230)
Introduction: A Wile E. Coyote Fall
Focus of this chapter:
Asks some fundamental questions about the economic crisis and its implications for work and families in Canada
Argues that the protections that might have shielded families and workers from the worst effects of this crisis were dismantled in
the “Road Runner” capitalism years leading up to the fall of 2008
The article proceeds in five stages:
1. It explores what has happened in Canada since the crash of 2008
2. It explains neo-liberalism and how the logic of this kind of economic model left workers and families on shaky ground
3. It considers social supports in the Canadian welfare state and argues that before the crisis of 2008, there were few supports to
balance work and family and to offset income insecurity or shortfalls
4. It profiles one family’s story from a longitudinal case study of 49 families in Ontario who are balancing significant work and
caregiving responsibilities
5. It discusses the future of work and family, and suggests that far from learning from the errors of neo-liberal market rule, we have
entered into a new era of “strategic” neo-liberalism, intensifying the existing problems families face
The Stormy Present: What Happened in the Fall of 2008?
In September 2008, the United States and Europe had panicked discussions about economic bailouts by governments that were underway
For several months, Canadians felt somewhat insulted from the effects of the meltdown in financial markets
Prime Minister Harper showed little concern in the early days of the economic meltdown
But, by January 2009, layoff were almost daily announcements and Ontario was particularly hard-hit as the meltdown in the U.S.
auto sector travelled north
There was no doubt that the effects of the economic recession were going to be devastating for Canada
This was underlined by the Harper Conservatives almost losing their minority government over their handling of the
economic situation
In spite of the mounting evidence of Canada’s vulnerability, there was no response to the global crisis to stem the tide of job loss
and support industry, as other countries were doing
By January 2009, Prime Minister Harper introduced a new budget, heavy on spending and more in line with the kind of
responses governments of wealthy nations took around the world to attempt to remedy the crisis
At the heart of the crisis was an under-regulated credit market that treated debt as assets
This played out most dramatically in the subprime mortgage market where the artificially inflated prices of homes allowed
owners to access large amounts of credit
The biggest crash happened in the early 2000s, after September 11th, 2001 and the crash of Internet stocks
The U.S. economy, among others, faced the prospect of recession, so interest rates were dropped dramatically
When interest rates drop, it is much cheaper to borrow money and to buy or refinance houses
Counting on the continued appreciation of value in homes, financial institutions continued to buy up unsecured debt
When interest rates rose in 2006, many people were not able to meet their payments
Reckless mortgage companies were backed by banks and other financial institutions
Banks could no longer lend money to another as they normally did, and they began to sell off assets, making the problem worse
Governments tried to buy up bad assets to get the financial system moving again
The toxicity spread across the globe, trade dropped, and the credit crisis decimated economies
There is much debate about what to do, what this means for workers, for families, and for entire sectors of the Canadian economy
The causes lay not only in the lack of regulation of financial capital but also in the widespread and widely accepted idea that markets would
sort themselves out and that intervention meant interference
At the core of the crisis is the question of neo-liberalism
What is Neo-Liberalism?
It is hard for most to understand how an economic and political theory can be the chief cause of massive job losses and the collapse of
major banks and companies worldwide
Theory applied to practice is powerful
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