Decent Work

Join the Decent Work conversation on social media using the hashtag #DecentWork & share your stories with us: kate@theonn.ca

Decent Work in our sector

In Ontario, the nonprofit sector consists of over 55,000 organizations, and employs 600,000 full-time workers, 400,000 part-time workers, and engages millions of volunteers. This is a powerful sector of passionate people deeply invested in their work delivering community and public benefits.

As a sector, we are also a major employer in our province, and one of the fastest growing segments of Ontario’s labour market. The decisions that individual nonprofit organizations make about how their employment positions are structured has a dramatic and immediate impact on our province’s labour market.

These choices also have a significant impact on our sector’s ability to deliver on its community benefits objectives. If our employment conditions effectively support people’s commitment to their work, and create opportunities for their development and growth, the capacity of our organizations to achieve their desired impacts will only be strengthened.

There are many issues that affect the sector’s one million employees provincially: employment stability; low levels of pension plan and benefits coverage; high rates of part-time and contract employment; underinvestment in training and development; and poor work/life balance for workers.

The decent work movement presents an opportunity for the sector to act as a champion of working conditions and social policies that not only ensure dignified and supportive work environments for employees, but also support the overall health and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.


Want an overview of our decent work project? Watch our webinar – Toward Decent Work for the Nonprofit Sector

With Rob Howarth (Toronto Neighbourhood Centres), Lisa Lalande (Mowat NFP), Cathy Taylor (ONN)


What is Decent Work?

The concept of decent work was developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and is defined as “opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity” (International Labour Organization, “Decent Work,” 2015).

The nonprofit sector can be a major catalyst for a conversation about decent work and what it could mean for Canada, Ontario, our communities and the nonprofit sector itself.

What does Decent Work look like?

We’ve identified 7 elements of decent work as a starting point for a discussion of what decent work means in the nonprofit context:

  • Employment opportunities
  • Fair income
  • Health and retirement benefits
  • Stable employment
  • Opportunities for development and advancement
  • Equality and rights at work
  • Culture and leadership

ChangeWork: A Decent Work Movement for the Nonprofit Sector

ChangeWork is a collaborative project being carried out by ONN, Toronto Neighbourhood Centres (TNC), and Mowat NFP, with the support of the Atkinson Foundation’s Decent Work fund. Its goal is to generate a broad discussion about how our sector can promote decent work practices in our workplaces, our communities, our sector, and our society.

What is the focus of our project for the next year?

  • Championing the importance of a decent work agenda for our sector
  • Profiling and sharing existing and emerging promising practices in your organizations
  • Identifying the supports needed to expand these approaches
  • Continued efforts to achieve the funding reform agenda and other policy changes that would assist organizations to better realize their decent work aspirations

New! ChangeWork Report

Image of ChangeWork Header

The first phase of the ChangeWork project, this report identifies many ways that we can act together to help our sector thrive as a site of decent work, nurturing and sustaining our most valuable resource – the passion, motivation and creativity of the people who support and transform our communities, every day.

The report highlights the choices that people can make about how they collectively structure their organizations, community networks and policy systems. There are choices that any organization or government can make to improve working conditions for employees. It is up to the nonprofit sector to decide how it can best champion these efforts.

The health of the sector as an employer directly impacts our ability to meet our goals, missions and mandates. The report argues that a sector that champions decent work — both at a community level and through investing in its employees — will have an increased ability to make community impacts due to better engagement and effectiveness from its workers.


How to get involved in the Decent Work movement

A decent work vision can only be realized within a broader movement. Decent work offers a lens that cuts across many issues facing the sector, however implementing it will be complex. It will require systems change and government, funders, and different sectors working together. The nonprofit sector can help by working together to build a movement around the cause. 

  1.     Policy Changes That Make Work Better For All
    1.     Strengthening the Social Safety Net
    2.     Modern Labour Market Strategies & Employment Protections
  2.     Sub-sector and Sector-Level Initiatives That Strengthen the Sector
    1.     Committing to a Decent Work Vision
    2.     Labour Market & Skills Development Planning
    3.     Funding Reform as “Decent Work”
    4.     Exploring the Pension Opportunity
  3.     Community and Network-level Supports for Small Organizations
    1.     Shared Knowledge and Training
    2.     People-focused Networks
    3.     Salary & Career Planning
    4.     Pooling Resources
    5.     Community Engagement
  4.     Good Practices for Individual Organizations
    1.     Shaping the Foundations
    2.     Investing in Culture

Join the Decent Work conversation on social media using the hashtag #DecentWork & share your stories with us: kate@theonn.ca

Decent Work resources

Logo Connect

ONN’s  job site for paid positions at nonprofits and charities showcases the sector as a proud employer, connects job seekers and organizations, and will capture valuable labour market data.