Why do we spend so little on generations under age 45?

Paul Kershaw, Globe and Mail

There is a generational imbalance in Canada’s policy priorities. Canadians under age 45 face a precipitous drop in their standard of living. But government spending prioritizes Canadians over 55 …

Far higher debt levels make starting families less affordable for generations in their prime child-bearing years. Under 45’s have adapted, in part by delaying having kids until they are older, and devoting more hours to employment once they have kids. But their adaptations don’t change the fact that the typical couple loses the equivalent of another mortgage from their income when parents split time at home with a newborn – even when they take advantage of parental leave benefits. And they will often fork out the equivalent of multiple years of post-secondary tuition to pay for 12 months of child care so they can spend enough time in employment to cope with wages that are down and housing debt that is up.

Starting a family doesn’t need to be so financially challenging. Canada could save new dads and moms $14,000 when they split 18 months at home with a baby by improving parental leave; and save young families $6,000 a year per preschooler if we reduced child care fees to no more than $10 a day.

To do this, Canadian priorities need to change. The federal government spends more subsidizing livestock and agriculture than it does subsidizing moms and dads to spend time with a new baby. Provincial governments spend nearly as much subsidizing agriculture as they do child care (other than in Quebec).

Why do we spend so little on generations under age 45? Part of the answer is that we are spending more elsewhere – including on older generations…Spending on older Canadians doesn’t have to come at the expense of spending on younger generations.

But we can’t avoid making this trade-off so long as we prioritize tax cuts along with increases to retirement security and medical care. This is what Canadians started doing a decade ago. We now collect 5 per cent less of our economy in taxes than we did in the year 2000. That’s an $80-billion annual tax cut.

Data show this massive tax cut hasn’t helped the average young family to bridge the gap between stagnant wages and high housing costs.

Better parental leave and child care could bridge this gap, at a fraction of the cost. These policy solutions would make it easier for generations under 45 to pay off student debts or mortgages. So long as we choose not to invest in these solutions, our country leaves starting a Family Unaffordable by the standards established a generation ago. That’s a far worse F.U. to generations under 45 than any four-letter expletive.