Poverty In Canada Essay, Research Paper
Poverty means a lot more than how much money you have, but most available poverty statistics are based on income. Poverty statistics in Canada are usually based on the low-income lines published by Statistics Canada. These poverty lines (or income levels) vary with the size of your family and community. For example, for a large city, in 1997, the poverty lines were set at $ 17,409 for an individual and $ 32,759 for a family of four. People with incomes below these poverty lines have to spend at least 20 percent more of their incomes than most families pay for food, clothing, and shelter. The poverty rate is another commonly used term that refers to the percentage of people who live under these poverty lines. Many live far below these lines. The most recent statistics on poverty were released in April 1999 for the year 1997.
The Canadian government has been preoccupied with reducing the public deficit, while allowing the deficit for families to increase. The costs of these family deficits are paid through the reduced health and life chances of our children. More than five million Canadians, or 17.9 %, are living below the poverty line. These numbers underestimate the number of poor Canadians because they do not include Aboriginal people on reserves, residents of the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and people who live in institutions.
Since 1989 the number of food banks has tripled and the proportion of the population relying on them has doubled. The difference between a poor Canadian and a non-poor Canadian is about 2 paychecks. Families need an adequate income to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and so on. The gap between the poverty line and the income of low-income families, whether working or in receipt of income assistance, is huge and growing month by month.
Working 35 hours per week at a minimum wage job of $7 an hour yields an annual income of $12,740, more than $3,300 below the poverty line. Minimum wage would need to increase to $8.82 per hour for a single person working 35 hours per week to reach the poverty line. In addition to the human suffering and loss of potential, leaving children in poverty is a cost to everyone.
Everyone faces some risk of poverty. Poverty is often brought on unexpectedly because of loss of employment, the death or disability of a family breadwinner, family breakup, or increased costs because of a major illness or mishap in the lives of people. Changes in the economy and problems in the labor market can mean not enough jobs, not enough hours of work, declining real value of minimum wages or very low wages so that people cannot earn enough to live on. Members of some groups in our society face a greater risk of poverty than others because of discrimination, unequal opportunities, lack of recognition for the work, paid or unpaid, they do, and inadequate income support for people who are unable to work or to find paid work.
Income is shared very unequally in Canada. The richest fifth of Canadians receives 44.3% of all income in Canada and the poorest fifth receive only 4.6% of the income. Women continue to be more at risk of being poor, especially those unattached or heading lone-parent families. For example, 40.9% of non-elderly unattached women live in poverty, while 35.1% of non-elderly unattached men are poor. Again, among single-parent families, 56.0% of those headed by mothers are poor, while 23.5% of those headed by fathers live in poverty. Almost one in five of Canada’s children live in poverty. This means that 1,397,000 children are living in poor families. 18.7% of Canadians over 65 years live below the poverty line. In other words, 662,000 seniors are living in poverty. The risk of poverty is greatest for senior women who are on their own.
The Aboriginal People’s Survey showed incomes for Canada’s Aboriginal population in 1990 to be much lower than those for the Canadian population as a whole. Almost one-half of Aboriginal persons received less than $10,000, compared to about 25% of all Canadians. People with disabilities also have incomes lower than those of the general population. We have statistics from the census for people with disabilities of working age. In 1990, 42.7% of these individuals had an income below $10,000, compared to 34.9% of all Canadians in the same age group.
Canada has proportionally more people in concentrated urban poverty than the United States. Certain factors dictate that race and ethnicity cannot be the primary factor behind concentrated urban poverty in Canada. The most important of these is that Canada’s visible minority population of 3.7% is significantly smaller than that of the United States of 25%. In particular, Blacks and Hispanics, the two minorities that make up 21% of the total population and 87% of the concentrated poor population in America comprise less than one percent of the Canadian population. This extremely limited size means that, even if totally segregated, Blacks and Hispanics in Canada could not account for expansive ghettos similar to those that exist in America’s central cities.
The US case reveals much the same pattern. While Whites comprise 57% of the total central city population, they make up only 12% of the population in neighborhoods with concentrated urban poverty. Conversely, Blacks and Hispanics are greatly over represented in the category of concentrated urban poverty. Asians, with 3.2% of the total population, make up only 1.7% of the population of concentrated urban poverty areas.
The National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that represents the interests of low-income Canadians. NAPO is officially registered with Revenue Canada as a charitable organization. The goal of the National Anti-Poverty Organization is the elimination of poverty in Canada. While NAPO has adopted the Statistics Canada Low-Income Cut-off Lines as a dollar-figure approximation of poverty in Canada, the complete elimination of poverty will have occurred when all Canadians share the following characteristics:
? Adequate income.
? Access to high-quality human services.
? Autonomy and choice within their own households and lives.
? Recognition of the contribution, paid or unpaid, made to the community, and freedom from all forms of discrimination and complete social and economic equality.
To carry out its mandate, NAPO undertakes the following broad activities:
? Raises public awareness about poverty and issues of concern to low-income Canadians.
? Advocates the concerns, values and wishes of low-income Canadians so that they are reflected in public policy.
? Identifies and prioritizes issues of concern to low-income Canadians.
? Gathers and carries out research on issues of concern to low-income Canadians and works with local activists and organizations to strengthen national and local efforts to eliminate poverty.
Poverty is worse than having little or no money. It includes the loss of self-respect, of personal freedom, and of physical and mental health. It makes access to the community difficult, and it is a humiliating experience of powerlessness. There is much to admire in the courage and endurance of the millions of Canadians who carry this burden with dignity and grim determination.
1. The National Anti-Poverty Organization: http://www.napo-onap.ca/
2. National Democratic Party: http://home.ican.net/~edtoth/ndppoverty2.html
3. Canadian Council on Social Development: http://www.cfc-efc.ca/docs/00000324.htm
4. Alberni Environmental Coalition: http://www.portaec.net/library/poverty/