A new report distributed by United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) and community partners gives low marks for the distribution of social capital. The report, the Peel Region Social Capital Study, was released Tuesday (July 20) and measures social capital in Peel, assessing pre-pandemic baseline levels. While the results are largely encouraging, there is a clear divide along financial line.
“If we want resilient communities, we need to understand what social capital looks like – who has how much and how we can close the gap,” said UWGT president and CEO Daniele Zanotti. “The community sector, including United Way’s network of agencies and partners, is an important bridge to social capital: where people build trust in neighbours; where they find community when it’s most needed; where they organize to improve their neighbourhoods.” Specifically, the report assesses how much residents trust their neighbours and institutions; how extensive and satisfying their social connections are; how civically engaged they are; and how they feel about their neighbourhoods’ safety and services.
Key findings in Peel, which were collected from over 1,200 respondents from Dec. 2018 and Mar. 2019, indicate that pre-pandemic, social capital in Peel was strong: people had relatively high levels of trust, strong social networks, extensive civic connection, and neighbourhood support.
“While trust is somewhat high, factors such as income, age, and where you live play a role in access to social capital and its benefits,” the report states. One of the key causes for social inequity is income growth, the report states, noting that Peel is facing trends that are p r e v a l e n t throughout the GTA, including rising poverty, precarious employment and income inequality as being driving factors for disparities between demographics.
“Even before the pandemic, people with lower incomes and less financial security faced greater barriers to accessing social capital,” the report states, referring to Peel’s metric of approximately 13.6 per cent of residents who are at or below the poverty line. Precarity has become imprinted on to the labour market, with 42.7 per cent of workers in Peel between the ages of 25 and 64 working in some degree of precarious employment, which has a harmful impact on individual, family, and community wellbeing.
Representative quoted in the report said this week that in order to plan for and invest in an inclusive recovery that supports individuals’ well-being, bolsters trust, and increases neighbourhood cohesion, all sectors will need to continue to address systemic issues like poverty, financial insecurity, and discrimination that impact the uneven distribution of social capital.
“Engaging diverse communities and building social connection are essential to delivering human focused services to people in Peel,” said Sonia Pace, director of community partnerships at the Region of Peel.