End Poverty Now: Give Grow Sustain
Reducing poverty in a given year is a laudable goal and it is heartening to know that there has been great progress as the percentage of poverty in Canada has declined over the past 20 years. However, it is important to see that the percentage of Canadians living in poor households below the basic needs poverty line has fallen from 6.7 percent in 1996 to 4.8 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, the percentage living in households below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut Off (LICO) has also decreased from a height of 15.2 percent in 1996 to 9.7 percent in 2013. The rate of low income among specific groups (children, seniors, and persons in lone-parent families) has also dropped over time. With that being said, the annual rate of poverty and low income is just a small snapshot that does not distinguish between people who experience short periods of poverty or low income versus those who are stuck there for longer periods.
The low income population is constantly changing as people enter and leave low income. Large amounts of people that have low income in one year do not have low income the following year. For instance, more than a third (36.9 percent) of Canadians with incomes below LICO in 2009 was above LICO in 2010. However, the overwhelming majority of Canadians who experience low income, it is a temporary situation, not always a lifelong condition. For instance, young people often have relatively low incomes when they are in school or when they first enter the workforce, but their income typically increases as they gain skills and work experience. In other cases, households may encounter a temporary negative shock to their income, perhaps due to a loss of employment or because of an injury that occurs, from which they may be able to recover relatively quickly. According to Statistics Canada data, the average time spent in low income is brief with the average spell being 2.4 years (2002 to 2007). Overall, a very small portion of Canadians are stuck in low income year after year. Research from Statistics Canada shows that 1.5 percent of Canadians were persistently low income from 2005 to 2010, and the percentage of the population in persistently low income has been falling since the 1990s. The percentage of Canadians in persistent low income (3.6 percent) was considerably higher than it was in the most recent six-year period. The research also shows that certain characteristics put Canadians at a higher risk of experiencing persistent low income, some of the at-risk characteristics include having a physical or mental disability, being part of a lone-parent family, and having less than high school education. The root causes of poverty among these at-risk groups are complex and varied, meaning the solutions for how best to provide assistance are also likely to differ from situation to situation. Simple proposals, such as increased cash transfers, may not help particular groups and may also be detrimental....