In­comes rise in Canada

Prairies, com­mod­ity boom drive growth in na­tional in­comes

Penticton Herald - - NEWS - By The Cana­dian Press

OT­TAWA — Carissa, a sin­gle mom on wel­fare six years ago, has a full­time job today and more money to show for it — along with a num­ber of other Cana­di­ans, sug­gest fresh cen­sus num­bers re­leased Wed­nes­day that shine new light on the strug­gle to make ends meet.

But the lat­est in­come fig­ures, based on tax data from 2015, also il­lus­trate the re­gional and so­ci­etal dis­par­i­ties the five-year cen­sus al­ways seems to ex­pose: com­mod­ity riches in the West, job short­ages in At­lantic Canada, man­u­fac­tur­ing woes in On­tario and Que­bec — and a per­sis­tent, if nar­row­ing, wage gap be­tween work­ing women and men.

On av­er­age, Cana­di­ans saw a steady rise in their in­come be­tween 2005 and 2015, when the me­dian na­tional house­hold in­come weighed in at $70,336, up 10.8 per cent from $63,457 a decade ear­lier, once ad­justed for in­fla­tion.

Much of that in­crease can be at­trib­uted to the spike in com­mod­ity prices over that 10-year pe­riod, help­ing re­source-rich re­gions like Nu­navut, Saskatchewan, Al­berta and New­found­land and Labrador post in­creases twice or three times the na­tional av­er­age.

It’s an­other layer on the paintby-num­bers por­trait Statis­tics Canada be­gan in Fe­bru­ary with a pop­u­la­tion boom out West, which saw a com­men­su­rate spike in the num­ber of house­holds. Ad­di­tional brush­strokes added a his­tor­i­cally high num­ber of se­niors, chil­dren stay­ing at home longer and more gen­er­a­tions than ever liv­ing un­der Cana­dian roofs, among other flour­ishes.

Growth in in­comes isn’t al­ways tied to more peo­ple, Statis­tics Canada is quick to note. But in this case, the coun­try’s mi­gra­tion west fol­lowed a rise in oil prices, fu­elling a con­struc­tion boom that helped drive up me­dian in­comes and drive down poverty rates.

“One of the sto­ries of the re­source boom is that there are def­i­nitely in­creases in me­dian in­come, but most of the gains are go­ing to go to the top (earn­ers),” said David Mac­don­ald, a se­nior econ­o­mist with the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Pol­icy Al­ter­na­tives.

“Much of the ac­tion (on in­come) is be­cause of the Prairies, not as much be­cause of the tra­di­tional en­gines of growth, which are On­tario and Que­bec.”

Canada’s most pop­u­lous province watched its me­dian in­come barely move over the last decade, its 3.8 per cent rise rank­ing a dis­mal last.

That’s thanks to a de­cline in man­u­fac­tur­ing since 2005, in­clud­ing a loss of 318,000 jobs, or roughly 30 per cent. In Wind­sor, Ont., an au­to­mo­tive hub that fared worst of all of On­tario’s cities, me­dian in­come ac­tu­ally dropped, caus­ing an in­crease in the num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in poverty.

The At­lantic prov­inces and Que­bec had the low­est me­dian in­comes in the coun­try in 2015, just as in 2005, al­though there were wide vari­a­tions in Que­bec. Re­source-rich parts of that province posted above-av­er­age gains in in­come; ar­eas with higher-than-av­er­age growth in se­niors or man­u­fac­tur­ing bases were left be­hind.

Me­dian in­come is one measure of the vaguely de­fined “mid­dle class” that po­lit­i­cal par­ties of all stripes have been clam­our­ing to help. The fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment talks at every turn of help­ing those who strug­gle to keep up with the cost of liv­ing — and post­ing huge bud­get deficits to do it.

Peo­ple like Carissa, 32, who asked that she be iden­ti­fied by first name only.

“Do I want fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity? Ab­so­lutely,” said the Ot­tawa res­i­dent. “I feel like I’m well on track to be more fi­nan­cially se­cure . . . but I would say that it’s still very hard to step back into the pri­vate mar­ket when you don’t have that se­cu­rity.”

The gen­der wage gap per­sists, of course, but there’s been progress there, too.

Since 2005, women’s in­comes have grown more than five times faster than their male coun­ter­parts — 11.6 per cent com­pared to 2.2 per cent — likely be­cause of more higher-pay­ing union work for women, while men lose man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, said Doug Nor­ris, chief de­mog­ra­pher at En­vi­ron­ics An­a­lyt­ics.

In 2005, the gap in em­ploy­ment in­come was al­most $13,500, once ad­justed for in­fla­tion; by 2015, that gap was at $11,362.

Statis­tics Canada said 32 per cent of cou­ples earned roughly the same amount, a jump from the 20.6 per cent recorded 30 years ago. In half the coun­try’s op­po­site-sex cou­ples, men earned more than women, com­pared with 71.3 per cent in 1985.

An­drew Heisz, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the agency’s in­come statis­tics divi­sion, said the rise in fe­male wages is tied to more women grad­u­at­ing with a post­sec­ondary de­gree, which has also helped close the gen­der gap steadily over time.

“We see all of th­ese things in­creas­ing for women over a long pe­riod of time,” Heisz said.

“Women are more likely to be in the labour force now than they were in the past, so the last 10 years have just been a con­tin­u­a­tion of many of those trends.”

The Cana­dian Press

Carissa, last name with­held, and her daugh­ter Ayla, 11, are shown Tues­day in Ot­tawa. Carissa, a sin­gle mom on wel­fare six years ago, has a full-time job today and more money to show for it — along with a num­ber of other Cana­di­ans, sug­gest fresh cen­sus num­bers re­leased Wed­nes­day.

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