Re­li­gion and its ser­vices add $67.5B

Edmonton Journal - - NP - TYLER DAW­SON

Even as the pro­por­tion of the faith­ful in Canada de­clines, the ac­tiv­i­ties of re­li­gious peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions ac­count for nearly $67.5 bil­lion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in Canada each year, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates in a new pa­per from Cardus, a faith-based Cana­dian think-tank.

“There is a broad, wide and over­all to­tally ben­e­fi­cial ef­fect of re­li­gion on the lives of ev­ery­day Cana­di­ans, on our coun­try, on our so­cial safety, and that ap­plies to peo­ple not just who are re­li­gious,” said Brian Di­jkema, vice-pres­i­dent of ex­ter­nal af­fairs at Cardus. “It shows the broader pub­lic ben­e­fit of re­li­gion to Cana­dian so­ci­ety as a whole.”

The re­port, the first of its kind in Canada to tally up the eco­nomic im­pact of faith, sug­gests there are hard-dol­lar con­tri­bu­tions to the econ­omy, worth about $31 bil­lion, which con­sid­ers the rev­enues of faith-based char­i­ties, or­ga­ni­za­tions and con­gre­ga­tions. Then there is a fur­ther $37 bil­lion in “halo ef­fects,” which tal­lies up the eco­nomic im­pact of things such as sub­stance-abuse sup­port, or kosher and halal food sales.

“Un­der­stand­ing the so­cioe­co­nomic value of re­li­gion to Cana­dian so­ci­ety is es­pe­cially im­por­tant in the present era char­ac­ter­ized by dis­af­fil­i­a­tion from or­ga­nized re­li­gion,” the re­port, re­leased Mon­day, says. “Of course, faith has much more value than is rep­re­sented by a dol­lar es­ti­mate, but such a val­u­a­tion pro­vides a new way of un­der­stand­ing the con­tri­bu­tion of faith to Cana­dian so­ci­ety.”

Of the nearly 38 mil­lion peo­ple in Canada, roughly half (55 per cent) are Chris­tians of one per­sua­sion or another, ac­cord­ing to a PEW study from 2019; a fur­ther 29 per cent are some va­ri­ety of ag­nos­tic, up from just four per cent in 1971. A fur­ther eight per cent fall among other re­li­gions, such as Sikh, Hindu, Mus­lim, Jewish and Bud­dhist.

To come up with its es­ti­mates, Cardus trawled through charitable re­turns, school and re­li­gious health­care fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments and re­li­gious pub­li­ca­tion rev­enues.

Of the di­rect eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion of $31 bil­lion, the lion's share is pub­licly funded Catholic schools, which is a to­tal of $14.5 bil­lion. The next most sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic out­lay is con­gre­ga­tion rev­enue at $7 bil­lion, then health care at $4.7 bil­lion. The re­main­der is made up by in­de­pen­dent schools, char­i­ties, higher ed­u­ca­tion and re­li­gious me­dia.

The most im­por­tant part of the es­ti­mate, said Di­jkema, in­volves the “halo ef­fect” of re­li­gion.

“We're talk­ing about $35 bil­lion worth of ac­tiv­ity that takes place sim­ply be­cause these re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties are com­mit­ted to mak­ing the lives of their mem­bers and their com­mu­nity that much bet­ter,” he said.

The re­port cat­a­logues sev­eral ways in which re­li­gion pro­vides ad­di­tional eco­nomic ben­e­fits: re­li­gious em­ploy­ees, for ex­am­ple, pay taxes; con­gre­ga­tions spend in lo­cal economies; churches at­tract rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as wed­dings and pro­vide an “invisible safety net” of so­cial ser­vices (Cardus says that 47 per cent of Al­co­holics Anony­mous meet­ings hap­pen in churches.)

These es­ti­mates use mod­el­ling from other stud­ies. To come up with its to­tal in­di­rect spend­ing es­ti­mate of $37 bil­lion, Cardus as­sumes con­gre­ga­tions spend what they bring in, ap­prox­i­mately $7 bil­lion, but that rep­re­sents only 20 per cent, per the other re­search, of to­tal con­gre­ga­tion ac­tiv­ity.

The re­main­ing 80 per cent is bro­ken up among the afore­men­tioned ac­tiv­i­ties, again us­ing per­cent­ages from other stud­ies, and then the money is cal­cu­lated from there, for ex­am­ple, 3.5 per cent, or $1.2 bil­lion for safety net sup­ports. The largest co­hort, cat­e­go­rized as “in­di­vid­ual im­pact,” is worth about $13.4 bil­lion, or 38 per cent of the to­tal. That in­cludes the ben­e­fits, broadly, of pro­vid­ing sup­port “to in­di­vid­u­als, cou­ples, and fam­i­lies,” the re­port says.

“Hous­ing, food banks, care for im­mi­grants and refugees, care for those who are in abu­sive sit­u­a­tions, of­ten it's peo­ple in re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties who are the first responders to that,” said Di­jkema.

“Of­ten peo­ple, when they think of re­li­gion, they think of peo­ple pray­ing pri­vately ... but I think what this shows is the re­li­gious char­ac­ter of many com­mu­ni­ties in Canada have vast and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated pub­lic ef­fects.”

The study doesn't con­sider some all po­ten­tial ef­fects of faith, though. While Christ­mas, for ex­am­ple, is worth about $10 bil­lion to the Cana­dian econ­omy, Cardus ig­nores it, since it is not nec­es­sar­ily di­rectly at­trib­ut­able to faith.

As well, Cardus cau­tions the study doesn't ac­count for some of the neg­a­tive in­flu­ences of re­li­gious life. They also say the “most im­por­tant” lim­i­ta­tion is that the es­ti­mate of the value of goods and ser­vices “is based on the propo­si­tion that the find­ings from other halo-ef­fect stud­ies can be ex­trap­o­lated up to the na­tional level.”


Re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties are of­ten at the fore­front of af­ford­able hous­ing, food banks, and care for im­mi­grants, refugees and the abused.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.