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Poverty in Canada: Past, Present and Future

By Edited May 22, 2015 1 1

Poverty has been defined by various social scientists and organizations from time to time with emphasis on various dimensions of the style of living pertaining to that particular country or region. There are countless number of Poverty articles and Poverty Essays written. However, Poverty is becoming increasingly difficult to define in Canada due to the unavailability of rates of poverty but instead being based on the economic scales such as Gross Domestic Product, consumer price index and the unemployment rate. Poverty is not about measuring up to some standard and is not having enough money to get by with the basics. Poverty definition is very dynamic. World Bank defines it as “Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time”.

Poverty in Canada has been largely measured on the basis of Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Cut-Offs (LICOs). It measures the number of families who are below the low-income cut-off (LICO), which means those who spend 20 percent more of their gross income on food, shelter and clothing than the average Canadian. Year of 2004 marked the lowest poverty rate (4.9%) in Canada overall and also the lowest child poverty rate of 5.6%. Over the past 55 years poverty rates in Canada has shown significant improvement from a rate of 41.2 percent to 6.6 percent. Since 1996, the overall poverty rate in Canada has fallen steeply, from 15.7 per cent to 10.8 per cent in 2005. According to Statistics Canada, 2008, the average Poverty level in Canada was 10.6% in 2006 with British Columbia having the highest rate of 13% while Prince Edward Island had the lowest rate of 5.4%.

There has been decreasing trend of Poverty rates over the last few years. However, despite the constant decrease in poverty rates in Canada, there is a lack of standardized measure of poverty, which can help bring poverty even lower. Some groups of Canadians such as women (particularly young mothers), recent immigrants, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal people are at greater risk of Poverty. Poverty rates among these groups have been generally higher than the average rates. Efforts in the form of financial assistance and training programs have been made at the federal and provincial/territorial levels to reduce poverty rates. These programs include Pensions for seniors, Child and family benefits, Employment Insurance and Employment Training.

The poverty rate in Canada has been directly proportional to the employment conditions. Future of Poverty in Canada depends on the employment factor, but more on the anti-poverty and income security policies established by the Government. Poverty can be drastically decreased or even eradicated from Canada, provided strict policy development and implementation is undertaken and is based on the needs of a common man.  

Oscar Lewis gave the theory of the culture of poverty which states that “The poor in modern capitalist societies represent an identifiable culture that transcends national differences, and that the social and psychological consequences of poverty are severe and difficult to overcome”. His theory holds true where poor are given very little or no opportunity to get into the mainstream such as in developing countries, where social assistance programs and policies are not in place.  This theory also describes that people with a culture of poverty get accustomed to their way of life and the resources available to them. 

However William Ryan had different views on poverty and suggests a different strategy as such “Victims are blamed for their situations. This is done largely through identification of a problem, such as poverty, and through selection of a specific group of people, such as urban blacks, as a target population to solve the problem to solve the problem”. This is a more appropriate and practical approach to finding a solution to Poverty in Canada and can be elaborated further to include the root causes of the situation of the victims of Poverty. Identification of the root cause of poverty of a particular group or category of population can help in finding a solution to that problem. This approach can address the various poverty affected categories of population and can provide an individualistic approach. For example, initiatives can be designed for new immigrants in faster and more realistic evaluation of their foreign credentials. This avoids them from being forced to work low wage jobs and can render them active participants of the Canadian economy. According to a recent news article published in a National newspaper, this can prevent the Canadian economy a loss of billions of dollars every year. This strategy can also help in reducing poverty rates by providing and encouraging education for children belonging to low socio-economic families. This can prepare them to compete for and have well paid jobs.




Jun 29, 2011 11:04am
nice article.....
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