Working while poor

Centraide of Greater Montreal and the INRS announce the results of a study on working poverty in the Montreal region

On the occasion of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Centraide of Greater Montreal and the INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) today released the results of a joint study on the working poor in the Montreal region.

This study reveals that employment no longer provides an adequate income for a growing number of workers. Despite having a job, they remain poor. In the Montreal region, out of every ten low-income individuals aged 18-64, four are employed. Some 125,000 people are confronted with this reality.


  • Between 2001 and 2012, the number of working poor individuals in Greater Montreal grew by about 30%.
  • This phenomenon is particularly marked on the Island of Montreal. The highest rates of working poor are found in the following Montreal neighbourhoods: Park Extension (30.7%), Peter McGill (19.7%), Côte-des-Neiges (18.9%), Little Burgundy (18.5%), Pointe-Saint-Charles (18.2%), Saint-Michel (17.6%) and Saint-Henri (17.5%).
  • More than half of working poor individuals have children (55%).
  • Who are the working poor?
    • 38% of single parents under age 30, the majority of whom are women, belong to the working poor.
    • 27% of recent immigrants belong to the working poor; they are 5 times more at risk of working poverty than non-immigrants (6%).


“Working poverty accentuates inequalities and represents an additional challenge for the agencies in our network,” explains Lili-Anna Pereša, President and Executive Director of Centraide of Greater Montreal. “These inequalities create a gap between the life circumstances of the most affluent and most disadvantaged that continues to grow throughout their lives. In Montreal, there is an 11-year discrepancy in life expectancy between some rich and poor neighbourhoods. That is why it is so important to intervene as early as possible with children and their families in order to break the cycle of poverty.”

“Urban inequalities are increasing in many large Canadian cities,” adds Xavier Leloup, a researcher at INRS. “In Montreal, family status, and especially lone-motherhood, seems to be the most crucial variable in explaining the phenomenon of the working poor. As well, immigrants are more affected by this situation, regardless of their level of education. It is essential to take the reality of the working poor into account in our public policies and community-based interventions, because of their growing numbers.”