The gap between rich and poor in developed countries is at its highest level in 30 years. Research shows that as income inequality rises, economic growth falls. It is vital to help those at the bottom close the gap.
In Powell River (CA) in 2010, 11.3 percent of families earned less than $30,000 while 6.13 percent earned over $150,000. The proportion of families earning less than $30,000 is slightly lower than the national average (11.93 percent) and 2.2 percentage points lower than the provincial average (13.5 percent). The income bracket with the most earners in Powell River—15.6 percent of families —was $60,000 – $80,000 (current dollars).
Poverty in Powell River
Our overall poverty rate is a little lower than the national and provincial rates, but it’s slowly getting worse. The 2013 overall poverty rate in the Powell River region was 14.3 percent based on the Low Income Measure (LIM) after-tax. The LIM is a good indicator of relative poverty. Our rate is up from 13.1 percent in 2008 and 13.7 percent in 2012. Powell River’s overall poverty levels are still 1.9 percent below the national average (14.6 percent) and 12.4 percent below the provincial average (16.3 percent), but the trend is worrisome.
We’re headed in the wrong direction. Our child poverty rate is substantially higher than the national and provincial rates, and it’s gotten worse over the last several years. The 2013 child poverty rate in the Powell River region was 23.1 percent based on the LIM after-tax. The number of children living in poverty is up from 17.6 percent in 2008 and 22.1 percent in 2012. The 2013 child poverty rate was 21.6 percent above the national average (19.0 percent) and 13.2 percent above the provincial average (20.4 percent).
Our seniors may still be benefiting from the region’s prosperity during the mill’s glory days. In 2010, 10.9 percent of seniors (65 and older) had incomes below the LIM after tax. This is much better than 13.9 percent for BC and 13.4 percent in Canada as a whole.
Dependence on the Safety Net
In September 2012, 2.8% of Powell River residents under 65 were dependent on Basic Income Assistance, which is higher than the provincial figure of 1.7%. The rate for children under 14 was 6%, compared to 3.1% for BC. For youth 15-24, 5% in Powell River were receiving Income Assistance compared to 1.8% provincially. 1.2% of Powell River residents 15+ were on Employment Insurance at that time, compared to 1.3% for BC as a whole. Youth 15-24 on EI totaled 1.2% compared to 0.7% provincially
From the Survey …
Over the past four years, do you think the gap between people with high incomes and people with low incomes has changed?
While most people think the gap has grown rather than shrunk, seniors are more likely to see the gap as having grown much larger, perhaps because many are on fixed incomes.
The gap is mostly thought of in financial terms, but those at the bottom often also experience health, ability, cultural and psychological barriers. Services and opportunities often miss the people they are designed to help because of these barriers to participation and access, which create and increase the gap. Lack of high-quality, accessible, affordable childcare is another common barrier to participation in work and other activities. When it costs more for childcare than the parent takes home from the job, what’s the point?