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Public Engagement in Experiential Futures



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Newcomers & Precarious Work

To better manage the complexity around newcomer support services, newcomers must opt into programs that then track and monitor newcomer activity through the provision of such services. While this helps the government with smarter resource distribution, the state of being under constant surveillance leaves many newcomers without a sense of self-agency.

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Quantified self has become a tool to develop an advantage for many newcomers with regards to breaking into the labor economy. Health and activity tracking is used to showcase not only the skills newcomers have but their performance capacity as well. Because of this, many newcomers are pushing themselves harder and harder to outperform their newcomer peers.

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Alongside the many labor jobs, many social services have also been automated. While this has helped streamline access to services for many, some newcomers experience the opposite. Many of the automated services were designed without the emerging complex needs of new newcomer groups. Because of this, many newcomer groups end up suffering due to lack of access or end up coming up with their own solutions to the services they need.

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The ability to work remotely with ease benefits affluent newcomers with access to devices that can be connected to mobile working platforms, allowing them to find and even create work for themselves through democratized online service / trade bartering systems. This also allows them to save expenses by living outside of the downtown core without the need for commute. Newcomers without access to such digital resources, however, are further driven out to find informal means for precarious work outside of the system, as well as being subjected to high living expenses in the downtown core.

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Digital connectivity associated with all aspects of living has become a norm, and newcomers must subscribe to constant surveillance through data tracking that is inherent to the provision of any support services by the government. More so, automated quantitative evaluation now determines the services that newcomers are able to receive, thus concretizing gaps between rich and poor, even within the newcomer community, through automated analytics algorithms. Although blockchain technology makes it difficult to erase digital ledgers tied to newcomer activity and corresponding digital identities, a growing community of hackers have found ways to manipulate devices and data as means to exploit affluent newcomers for digital identity “upgrades” in order to access higher quality lifestyle services.

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Newcomers are willing to take high risks on their safety in order to maintain work. At the same time, workplace safety for entry level positions are not a priority for corporations as workers are easily replaceable due to the scarcity of job opportunities. Workers rights within employment laws have previously been curtailed in favor of private corporations’ interest as local economies have been dependent in the last years on corporate monopoly and jobs created from the rise of corporate power. Unable to rely on the system, newcomers turn to community support for protection. As such, social capital is an extremely important asset for newcomers.

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Urban density issues tied to the concentration of job opportunities in downtown urban cores have led to the rise of self-constructed urban areas made of hybrid living arrangements for newcomers who are forced to stay downtown in order to maintain any work. Tiny houses have taken over the backyards of downtown neighbourhoods, and informal dwellings associated with communal use, particularly for newcomer communities who cannot afford formal housing options, are increasingly being established in public spaces through participatory governance. The government is struggling to find ways to manage and / or improve these informal settlements as these uses of public spaces are causing unrest among affluent citizens.

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Informal communities become newcomers’ main refuge and support system as government support is often inaccessible and unreliable for them. Social capital becomes the valued currency among newcomers. Acceptance of differences in the face of survival within the diverse newcomer community has become commonplace. Even justice is sometimes taken into their own hands in order to protect those that “belong” to the community and to cast out those that transgress community bond.

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Entrepreneurship becomes the new norm, though not yet formalized, as it is a necessary skill for newcomers to create job opportunities where there is none. Newcomers must be innovative in how they leverage their networks at the risk of being “left behind”, particularly since they are competing with Torontonians who have significantly more access to business resources that are unequally distributed by the system. Oftentimes, even where newcomers have the skills, they must resort to conducting transactions outside of legal confines as the system poses a limitation to their potential.

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Stress from unstable, and often unfulfilling precarious work takes its toll on newcomers who are not only adjusting to a new environment, but must regularly compete for job opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. Discrimination arising from disdain over Canada’s openness to accept refugees also ironically make the settlement experience difficult. Mental health of newcomers are immensely affected, and the Government’s automated social service system does not account for such qualitative subtleties.

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