Tech jobs in Toronto: analysis vs anecdotes

Techvibes recently came out with a short article proclaiming Toronto and Ottawa as rising cities for jobs and workers in the technology sector. Having lived in Toronto for a year and regularly attended technology-related events, I have seen strong indications of growth in the low end of the market: lots of jobs in front end web development, companies providing food and pitches for their job openings at networking events.

I went to CBRE’s report to get more source data to compare with my experience.

The vast majority of Toronto’s jobs in the technology industry are reported in the Administrative & Office Support category (188,500 of  595,100 in 2017), followed by general tech support and business operations, which together total a similar number of positions. All three of these job categories tend to be staffed across countries, cities, and regions by multinational companies looking to improve responsiveness to local needs. US-based technology companies with a Toronto presence have in my experience been part of this trend, with Canadian offices not working on much of anything related to the core business.

It’s unfortunate that the only measure of diversity recorded in the report is only M/F, so I have no data related to differences by race or other non-discrimination measures. Toronto appears to do well relative to the entire North American tech sector, with 27.7% of the workforce identified as women. In conversations with women, a common thread emerged of difficulty getting to the interview stage or being shortlisted for second round interviews. For non-white women, many of whom had multiple recent tech-related credentials including in-demand certifications, the chance of being actively considered for a job that would use their skills was lower.

The diversity measure and the allocation of jobs by categories combine to yield a reported exceptionally low pay for technology jobs in Toronto. The US dollar being around CAD$1.30 in recent years is also a contributing factor. When companies are largely hiring for administrative support, knowledge of the local environment, and customer service in an area like Toronto, they tend to hire women and people in other demographics willing to accept lower rates of pay.

Something that doesn’t show up in the data as I read them is entrepreneurship. Many Torontonians have a side hustle, are full-time entrepreneurs, or work for smaller companies including tech firms. This is where I see a lot of people who aren’t typical tech hires (male, white or Asian, 20-35 years old) succeeding in software engineering and other technology-related fields in the city. By not being tied to a large company that under-utilizes and under-pays satellite office staff, they’re thriving if they have the resources to develop a client base.

I see a future for technology employment and smaller-business growth in the city that doesn’t rely on taking crumbs falling from the giants’ table. It will be exciting to watch it unfold and support it over the coming years.

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