Engaging Income Security for a post-CERB Canada

Ross, Stephanie A. | $24,967

Ontario McMaster University 2021 SSHRC

The ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic continues to pose serious new risks and vulnerabilities to Canadians. Those on the margins of or outside the labour market have been exposed to a larger number of additional life hazards as a consequence of poverty. The prospect of the end of COVID-related income support programs (like the CERB and CRB) raises serious questions about people’s income security. For community groups like the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction (HRPR), their effective advocacy and intervention requires understanding low-income experiences and challenges in this evolving COVID‑19 landscape. The HRPR needs research conducted that will fill two knowledge gaps tied to their long-term advocacy in policy discussions: the adequacy of current income supports and their impact on work incentives. To serve their goal of producing the kinds of expertise and data needed to inform their poverty relief efforts, the HRPR has partnered with our research team to co-produce and co-disseminate new knowledge on the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on Ontario communities, namely low-income individuals, social assistance recipients and workers. Our research objectives will be met by a quantitative survey component and a qualitative interview component with a subset of survey respondents. With respect to low-income individuals and social assistance recipients, we will examine whether, why and how changes occurred in their physical/mental health, social relations, personal debts/savings, use of community resources, enrollment in government support programmes, food intake of sufficient quantity/quality and access to affordable/stable housing. With respect to working households, we will assess the current state of people’s precarious and standard employment relationships, including their labour force participation (entries/exits), wages/salaries, work hours, job tasks, workplace conditions, health and safety environment and labour union activities. Our partners will be central throughout the research process and their interests and needs guide the design and execution of our project. They will oversee survey planning and interview guide design, providing feedback to ensure the appropriateness and relevance of questions for their research and advocacy goals. They will help improve measurement by ensuring questions are worded in ways that elicit valid and reliable responses from members of their target audiences. The HRPR will assist in recruitment and retention efforts by providing referrals within their extensive networks and communities. From past collaborations, we know that their active involvement in developing appropriate and effective strategies for recruitment and retention will contribute to a higher rate of interest and willingness to participate among low-income individuals, especially those less likely to respond to invitations to participate. They will provide us with regular updates, reporting and feedback on the survey and interview participation process in order to help us prepare for the next steps and be aware of any concerns or changes to our original plans. They will be involved in the data analysis process and the interpretation of findings. Our partners will use the analysis to plan and implement interventions to improve the well-being of their community members and inform their advocacy efforts in post-pandemic income support and labour market policy discussions. Finally, our partners will bring their expertise on venues for community dissemination, working with us to release the findings to community audiences through different means and playing a central role in shaping media strategies to ensure timely press coverage which may coincide with their planned organizing campaigns to influence policy change.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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