Poverty darkens Canada’s socio-economic balance


Despite a generally fairly good rating, Canada is experiencing a steady increase in poverty and widening social inequality, according to a study recently published by the Conference Board of Canada “Canada Performs: Society”. Overview of key data.


“B” is the grade obtained by Canada in terms of living conditions and the well-being of its population, which placed it at 7th rank of 17 industrialized countries studied by the Conference Board of Canada, according to data released by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). The countries that ranked highest with an “A” grade are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria. Following with a “B” are Canada, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, France and Australia. Great Britain and Italy achieved a “C”. Japan and the United States lag behind with a “D”.


According to the results of this annual survey, based on 16 social, economic and cultural indicators, the Conference Board estimates that Canada is not living up to its reputation and potential. Such a finding is in particular due to poor results regarding poverty of adults and children, unequal distribution of wealth among citizens and the income gap between men and women. However, the country earned high marks in terms of satisfaction with life, tolerance of diversity and low crime rates.


A worrying increase in poverty


Canada ranks 15th in terms of child poverty, ahead of Italy and the United States. Since the 1990s, the rate of child poverty has increased from 12.8% to 15.1% today. This is data that especially concerns analysts for the country’s future, since young people tend to leave the education system earlier and are less motivated to improve.


With regards to adult poverty, also on the rise since the 1990s, Canada still ranks 15th, this time ahead of Japan and the United States. The rate of poverty among 18-65 year olds has also increased by close to 2 percentage points over twenty years, placing it among the three countries with the highest increase of adults living below the poverty line, and dropping its mark from a “C” to a “D”. Finally, although the poverty rate for elderly persons received an “A”, it still rose from 2.9% to 6.7% over twenty years.


Income inequalities on the rise


The study also reveals a growing inequality in the distribution of wealth in Canada, ranking 12th among countries analysed and awarding it a “C”. The income inequality between the richest classes and the middle and poorer classes has continued to grow over the last twenty years. The first quintile was the only one to see its share of the total national income increase (36.5% in 1990 compared to 39.1% in 2010).


Another “C” is the result of the income gap noted between men and women in Canada, which ranks 11th overall. There is some good news, however: the men-women income gap has dropped from just less than 30% in 1990 to 19% in 2010. The gap noted for all countries varies between 8% (Norway) and 29% (Japan).


According to the study, the socio-economic deterioration is not irreversible provided child and adult poverty is considered as a problem which must be resolved.

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