People’s Voice Vancouver Bureau, Dec. 1-31, 2015
Touted by Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal government as “the best place on earth,” British Columbia is no paradise for hundreds of thousands trapped in poverty.
The 2015 Child Poverty Report Card issued by First Call and other anti-poverty groups shows that the situation here is not improving. Figures from Statistics Canada show that BC’s child poverty rate continues to exceed the Canadian average, and BC remains among the provinces taking the least action on this issue.
For children living in lone-parent families in BC in 2013, a shocking 50% were
poor. The report demonstrates that child poverty touches every part of the province. In some regions, one-third or even half of all children were living in poverty. In some urban and suburban neighbourhoods, the proportion of children living in poverty was over 50%, and as high as 70%.
First Call stresses that “stubbornly high child and family poverty rates are a result of growing income inequality in BC and across Canada. They reflect the failure of employers, both
public and private, to create decent full-time jobs with wages and benefits that enable parents to lift their families out of poverty. They reflect the choice by our federal and provincial governments to apply the squeeze of austerity to our public institutions and social safety net, while allowing and facilitating the massive accumulation of wealth in very few hands. They reflect an indifference by those in positions of power and influence to the high cost of poverty to individuals, families and society.”
According to 2013 taxfiler data, 20.4% of British Columbia’s children lived below the poverty line, representing one in five children in the province, as measured by Statistics Canada’s Low Income Measure (LIM) after income taxes. This was the fifth-highest child poverty rate among Canadian provinces, with 167,810 BC children living in poverty in 2013. The BC rate was higher than the national rate of 19.0%.
Using the LIM after tax, 16.3% of British Columbians lived below the poverty line, higher than the Canadian average of 14.6%, and second only to Manitoba. In 2013, according to this measure, 714,960 British Columbians were in poverty. The fact that child poverty rates are higher than overall poverty rates in Canada and in every province, concludes First Call, “points to the need for systemic policy changes that better support families in their child-rearing years.”
The overall statistics hide the fact that particular groups of children are over-represented in these numbers. Census data consistently show significantly higher poverty rates for children of recent immigrants, children of Aboriginal identity, children of female lone-parent families, children in racialized (visible minority) families, and children with a disability.
According to a study using 2006 census data, the poverty rate for status First Nations children in BC was 48%, and the rate for other Aboriginal children was 28%, compared to 17% for non-indigenous children.
Data from the 2011 National Household Survey indicated an all-ages poverty rate for
recent immigrants in BC of 34% and a rate of 22% for visible minorities, compared
to a non-immigrant poverty rate of 14% and a non-visible minority rate of 14.%
Many poor families actually live far below the poverty line. In 2013, the median after-tax family income for poor lone-parent families with one child was $14,300, or $10,019 below the poverty line of $24,319 for this family type. The poverty gap for poor couple families with one child was even larger: their median after-tax family income of $17,680 was $11,851 below the poverty line of $29,531 for this family type.
In the same year, the median after-tax family income for poor lone-parent families with two children was $18,590, or $10,941 below the poverty line of $29,531 for this family type. The gap was similar for poor couple families with two children, whose income of $24,100 was $10,642 below the poverty line of $34,742.
(To read the full report, visit still1in5.ca.)