Working poor in BC

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Subject: Working poor in BC
  B.C. has largest share of working poor

Chad Skelton
vancouver sun


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


To listen to story, click the VoicePrint link

More than 72,000 workers -- almost one in 10 -- live in poverty in Greater Vancouver, leaving the Lower Mainland with the greatest incidence of working poor of any major city in Canada, according to a federal government study.

The same study, based on data already five years old, found B.C. had the largest share of working poor of any region in the country, at nearly twice the national rate.

The report, published in August by Human Resources and Social Development Canada, estimates that 72,500 people in Greater Vancouver are working poor -- defined as those who work at least 910 hours a year but have a family income below the poverty line.

That works out to 9.6 per cent of all workers -- well ahead of second-place Toronto at 5.3 per cent.

Similarly, the working poor make up 10.2 per cent of the total workforce in B.C. -- nearly twice the national rate of 5.6 per cent.

The definition of poverty used by the report is the Market

Basket Measure, which is an estimate of the cost of a number of basic goods -- such as shelter, food and clothing -- in each major city in the country.

Vancouver has the second-highest MBM in the country, after Toronto, largely due to its high cost of housing.

Under the MBM, a family of four in Vancouver is considered poor if its combined after-tax income is lower than $28,567.

In contrast, the same figure for Montreal, where rent is relatively cheap, is $23,381 -- nearly $5,000 less.

"There is this prevailing sense that, if you are working, you should not be poor," said Francois Weldon, head of the HRSDC´s Social Policy Research Group, which published the report. "The reality is there are a number of people who have a significant attachment to the labour force . . . and find themselves in poverty nonetheless."

"It is pretty troubling," said Jonathan Kesselman, an economist at Simon Fraser University.

"It´s kind of an affront to our notion that people can do OK, or even well, simply by working hard."

The report, based on 2001 data, does not address why Vancouver has such high rates of working poor, but Weldon said one of the reasons is the city´s high cost of living.

Kevin Milligan, an economist at the University of B.C., said the figures suggest someone who might be able to scrape out a decent lifestyle in Montreal would struggle in pricey Vancouver.

"They´re doing what they´re supposed to do -- going out and getting a job -- but they´re still having problems," he said.

In addition to regional comparisons, the government´s study also reveals some surprising facts about the working poor -- including how little one´s paycheque has to do with it.

Until recently, said Weldon, low-paid workers -- those who make only $10 an hour or less -- and the working poor were believed to be basically one and the same thing.

But the HRSDC study found that the vast majority of low-paid workers -- 88 per cent -- are not working poor.

That´s because, whether you are poor or not, depends on your entire family´s income -- and most low-paid workers are not the main breadwinner.

For example, a 25-year-old McDonald´s employee may only make minimum wage -- but if he lives at home with his middle-class parents, he´s not poor.

Similarly, most working poor are paid well above minimum wage -- the average is $12 an hour.

But many are supporting an entire family on that one salary -- either because they are single parents or their spouse doesn´t work.

SOME OF THE REPORT´S OTHER FINDINGS INCLUDE:

- The working poor work just as hard as the rest of us. The study found the average worker in poverty put in 2,090 hours of work a year -- slightly higher than the 2,050 logged by the average worker above the poverty line;

- While some of the working poor are able to use their job experience to eventually move on to better-paying work, it can be a tough slog. During the six-year period covered by the study, a worker in poverty spent an average of three years in that condition;

- A lot of poor people work. Of all those living below the poverty line in Canada, about 40 per cent work at least 910 hours a year. In Greater Vancouver, the figure is 43 per cent.

Experts say it´s not clear how best to help the working poor.

The study says increasing the minimum wage would have

little effect, because most of the working poor already make well above that amount.

Both the U.S. and Great Britain have introduced special tax credits for the working poor.

And Weldon said the Conservative government has vowed to work with the provinces to develop a similar program here.

But Kesselman said such programs can be costly, while adding only a few thousand dollars to each family´s income.

He said a better approach may be to make it easier for the working poor to access job training programs that can help them land a better-paying job.

cskelton@png.canwest.com

WORSE IN THE WEST

% of all workers in poverty (2001)

Vancouver 9.6%

Toronto 5.3%

Calgary 5.2%

Ottawa 3.7%

Montreal 3.4%

Winnipeg 3.2%

HIGH COST OF LIVING IN VANCOUVER MAKES IT HARDER TO SCRAPE BY

The federal government´s recent study on working poverty uses the Market Basket Measure (MBM), a definition of poverty based on the annual cost of basic goods like food, clothing and shelter in different Canadian cities in 2001. Based on those figures, Greater Vancouver is the second-most expensive city to live in -- after Greater Toronto. The biggest difference between Vancouver and other major cities is the high cost of housing. Below is the poverty line, after taxes, for a typical family of four -- with two adults and two children.

City Food Clothing Shelter Transp. Other TOTAL

Toronto $6,102 $2,283 $12,193 $2,379 $5,780 $28,737

Vancouver $6,917 $2,302 $11,289 $1,713 $6,351 $28,567

Ottawa $6,606 $2,283 $10,789 $1,609 $6,127 $27,414

Calgary $6,511 $2,166 $10,276 $1,465 $5,981 $26,399

Winnipeg $6,297 $2,267 $7,573 $1,682 $5,903 $23,722

Montreal $6,425 $2,298 $7,280 $1,365 $6,013 $23,381

- - -

This story can be heard online after 10:30 a.m. today at www.vancouversun.com/readaloud.

Ran with fact boxes "Worse in the West" and "High Cost ofLiving in Vancouver Makes It Harder to Scrape by ", which have beenappended to the end of the story.

? The Vancouver Sun 2006

[05-09-2006,15:45]
[***.121.220.199]
Sharon
(in reply to: Working poor in BC)
All of Canada is working poor!

This is why you must lure innocent foreigners into Canada and not give them jobs.

[05-09-2006,21:20]
[**.118.175.24]
Anonymous
(in reply to: Working poor in BC)
and the rest of the world has none????
[05-09-2006,22:44]
[***.121.220.199]
Sharon
(in reply to: Working poor in BC)
exactly, you must well budget your expense, your budget is no different than GM´s budget, just dozens of zero difference......................

[06-09-2006,00:25]
[**.66.82.98]
departure bay
(in reply to: Working poor in BC)
DB- you are right. it does not matter if you are an immigrant or a born national. Poor education, poor motivation, poor skills will all affect your standard of living. The BC stats that they are using talk alot about Vancouver and there is no doubt... it is tough here - for anybody on one income.

How many people live at the poverty line in countries where they have no trade or education or there is only one person working at low wages - lots. It goes to show that Canada is no magic pot of gold. And I hope people don´t come here expecting it. It is not reality.

[06-09-2006,01:05]
[***.121.220.199]
Sharon
(in reply to: Working poor in BC)
Listen, much as I hate the advice given out on this site...I´m not sayin USA is perfect..but I think there is more opportunity and I thi Canada should LIMIT the number of immigrants it lets in because there is obviously a surplus and few employers will give an immigrant a chance.

I just think the system rips off too many people and is unfair -- don´t let ´em in, if they won´t get decent jobs.

My name isn´t DB btw

But letting a family with young child think they can make it in Canada is particularly cruel.


[06-09-2006,21:26]
[**.167.151.194]
Anonymous
(in reply to: Working poor in BC)
Listen, much as I hate the advice given out on this site...I´m not sayin USA is perfect..but I think there is more opportunity and I thi Canada should LIMIT the number of immigrants it lets in because there is obviously a surplus and few employers will give an immigrant a chance.

I just think the system rips off too many people and is unfair -- don´t let ´em in, if they won´t get decent jobs.

My name isn´t DB btw

But letting a family with young child think they can make it in Canada is particularly cruel.


[06-09-2006,21:26]
[**.167.151.194]
Anonymous
Anonymous (in reply to: Working poor in BC)
Anonymous, I think you need to get a life, you are sitting here degrading Canada as you are fully aware that Canada is one of the countries in the world if not the best. I have been living in the US for more than 11 years now, so i know well enough about the life in the United states, so don´t come here trying to fool others.

Life in Canada (Health, education ect..) is better than in the US. You are safer living in Canada than here (US). The streets are safer than here (US).BTW, loser(Anonymous) I live in Beverly Hills, so you might have a clear idea of me, I own three cars, paid cash for them (Porsche, Benz S500, and a Jaguar)so I have a life. You need to get a life. The whole world knows USA is the land of opportunity, no doubt about that. While living in the US, I accomplished what I came here to do.

Although, I could´ve still done the same if I were living in Canada (will be moving soon), because I have a real talent doing what I do, I am only 29 years old with two american kids and an american wife (an engineering student), we will be moving to Canada , trying to buy a house in Vancouver Island. We are all excited to move to Canada, although my wife was born in the US , her dad was american and mother is Canadian, so she is also Canadian so is my one year-old son. There are many things you mentioned about Canada that are true, like it´s hard to get a descent Job in canada if you are not originally from Canada, BRAVO for that, in the US it´s all about talent and experience. The Canadian employers are wrong by hiring job seekers based on their race and origin, to me that´s RACISM! Another thing you said that I also agreed, Canada should slow down its immigration process, don´t let people in when you know it will be very difficult and hard for them to get a descent job because they are not white or true canadian or canadian born, that´s ridiculous! Canada is a beautiful and peaceful country one can have a good living.

THESE WERE MY TWO CENTS

[06-09-2006,23:46]
[**.248.32.228]
Me
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