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Poverty Reduction

The growing gap between rich and poor in Canada and around the world has real consequences for our communities and our world.

 

Understanding Poverty

Some perspectives look at poverty through the lens of income (e.g. If a household has an income less than half of the median income, they are living in poverty).  Another perspectives focuses on basic necessities (e.g. A family needs sufficient income to be able to afford a market basket of essential goods and services). A third view emphasizes that poverty is about more than not having access to sufficient goods or services; it is a relation between people that is shaped by social exclusion. A fourth approach understands poverty as the extent to which a person does not have access to resources (e.g.  financial resources, social networks of support, personal coping strategies). Together, these perspectives illustrate that poverty is a complex reality that creates multiple barriers to social and economic inclusion.

Who is Poor?

Poverty levels are experienced disproportionately by racialized persons, women, immigrants, Indigenous persons or persons with a disability.

The Working Poor

The standard employment relationship characterized by full-time, secure employment, where the worker has access to good wages and benefits, is no longer the norm. Recent studies (e.g. Law Commission of Ontario 2012) are showing that more precarious forms of work are increasing.  Precarious work is work with low wages, few or no benefits, little job security and minimal control over work conditions. Workers in precarious jobs are disproportionately women, racialized persons, immigrants, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, older adults and youth.

Why Does the Gap Between Rich and Poor Matter?

The gap between rich and poor measures the degree of inequality in a society. Income differences within a society are also clear indicators of differences in social status, social power and social inclusion. Furthermore, sociological studies are consistently demonstrating that societies that have wider gaps between rich and poor experience higher levels of violence, poorer health for all, lower levels of trust and community participation, higher levels of racism and sexism (c.f. The Spirit Level, Penguin Books 2010).

Working Toward Systemic Change

Poverty is not inevitable. Effective policy choices can significantly reduce the rates and mitigate its effects. All levels of government should have comprehensive poverty reduction strategies. Such strategies might include: investments in safe, affordable housing as well as other public goods such as transportation, drug care, dental care, health care, day care,  job training for good jobs that pay a living wage, paid internships to help youth get into the workforce, child tax benefits and adequate levels of social assistance. There is also a need for proactive labour inspections to protect employment standards and reduce the level of precarious work. Such investments require progressive tax policies accompanied by transparency and accountability in the use of government funds.

 

 

 

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