A less economically inclusive and equitable Canada?

01-31-18

Canada might rank highly as one of the “best countries” of 2018, but recent reports on economic inequality illustrate a different experience for many in the country.

The World Economic Forum’s Inclusive Development Index (IDI), which measures life expectancy, employment, income gains, poverty rate, and income inequality, ranked Canada 17th out of 29 developed countries. Canada scores highly by some measures – for example, on high median income, but poorly on savings, household debt, and income equality.

The IDI ranking comes on the heels of Oxfam’s annual report on global income inequality.  Oxfam’s report shows that in Canada, billionaire wealth has tripled since 2000 and the two richest Canadians hold the same wealth as the bottom 30% — about 11 million people in Canada.

It’s not just recent reports that show Canada failing on economic inequality. Last year, another Oxfam report ranked Canada lower than many of its peers, like the United Kingdom, on social spending and policies to address income inequality.

What do these reports really mean for the average person in Canada?

As this CBC Business article points out, the real picture of income inequality and wealth in Canada requires a more nuanced view than simply pointing out the wealth sitting at the very top. But at the same time, it isn’t difficult to see that little has changed in recent years to reduce inequality in Canada. While median household incomes rose in the 2016 census, the poverty rate has remained stagnant for a decade, with 14% of the population continuing to live in low-income.

And jobs are rapidly becoming more precarious. According to StatCan, less than half of all Canadian workers between the ages of 25 and 54 worked full-time, full-year jobs in 2015. The creation of part-time jobs continues to outpace that of full-time jobs month over month.

Add to this the gender wage gap, the fact that nearly half of working people in Canada are living paycheque-to-paycheque, and average student debt is around $22,000, there is much to be done.

Measures like the IDI and reports like those from Oxfam offer a snapshot of the income and wealth landscape of the country – and it’s true that we need a more comprehensive data approach to fully capture poverty and income insecurity in Canada. But these measures and rankings express a pattern: in comparison to its peer “developed” countries, Canada is less economically inclusive and equitable, and must do more to address the poverty and inequality that disproportionately impact people from marginalized communities, including Indigenous peoples, racialized people, women, and persons with disabilities.

Interested in what could be done to address these issues? Check out our Dignity for All model plan and stay tuned for our February campaign about the reality of income instability in Canada.