Child Poverty Rate Drops in British Columbia, Rate for all persons still the worst in Canada

First Call

The child poverty rate in British Columbia dropped from 11.8 percent in 2009 to 10.5 percent in 2010, Statistics Canada reported today.

The latest BC rate was the second worst in Canada after the rate of 11.1 percent in Manitoba. Previously, the child poverty rate in BC was the worst of any province in Canada for eight consecutive years.

The number of poor children was down from 98,000 in 2009 to 87,000 in 2010. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for persons of all ages in BC fell slightly from 12.0 percent in 2009 to 11.5 percent in 2010. It was the worst poverty rate in Canada for 12 consecutive years. The number of poor persons dropped from 523,000 to 510,000. “The latest statistics show – once again – the need for a comprehensive anti-poverty program in British Columbia, supported by every political party,” said Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. “Poverty is costing children their health and limiting their ability to reach their full potential.” The current BC government has proposed modest local anti-poverty initiatives in seven BC communities, but has made it clear it will not make significant investments to fight poverty prior to the 2013 provincial election.

The New Democratic Party has a bill before the legislature for BC to adopt an antipoverty plan with legislated targets and timelines, but the bill gives no idea of how long it might take for an NDP government to put concrete proposals into action.

“Children and families struggling with poverty need immediate relief,” said Montani. “It’s hard for parents to work if child care costs a small fortune and welfare rates are too low to support the nutritional needs of growing children.”

Statistics Canada also published today the poverty statistics for children by family type. The poverty rate for BC children in two-parent families fell from 10.7 percent in 2009 to 7.7 percent in 2010. The number of poor children in two parent families declined from 72,000 to 51,000.

For children living with lone-parent mothers, the poverty rate rose from 15.9 percent to 16.4 percent. The numbers of poor children in this category were not reported. The latest figures from Statistics Canada use the bureau’s low income cut-offs after government transfers and federal and provincial income taxes. The cut-offs vary by family size and population. The low income cut-off for a family of 4 in a city of 500,000 or more in 2010 was $35,469. A single parent with one child was considered low income at $22,831 per year in a large city. A parent working full-time all year at BC’s $8 per hour minimum wage in 2010 would have earned $15,600, or $7,231 below the cutoff. Statistics Canada said median income in British Columbia – the income at the exact middle of the income spectrum – fell between 2009 and 2010. The decline for economic families was from $75,900 to $73,200, and the drop for unattached individuals was from $28,800 to $25,600. The figures all measure income after government transfer payments, but before income taxes are paid.

In the context of rising shelter, child care, transportation and other necessary costs of living, this decline raises concerns about the adequacy of wages to keep people out of poverty, particularly for those who earn less than the median income.

First Call is a non-partisan coalition of provincial and regional organizations and individuals focused on promoting children’s rights and improving the well-being of BC’s children and youth.

The Coalition supports a significant increase in welfare rates and the indexing of both the minimum wage and welfare rates to the cost of living. It also calls on the province to invest in an affordable, high quality child care system, more social housing, improved access to coverage for dental care and prescription drugs, and easier access to postsecondary education without high student debt levels. First Call hosts the Living Wage for Families Campaign, urging public and private sector employers to consider their role in reducing poverty among their employees.