There’s plenty of evidence the healthiest societies have the smallest gaps between their richest and poorest citizens.
Given that, new data from Statistics Canada is disheartening.
Despite a booming economy through the ‘90s, the gap between the rich and the poor in this nation has worsened, not improved.
The median income for full-time workers in Canada was $41,401 in 2005. In 1980, it was $41,348.
In 25 years, the average full-time employee is better off by $53. That barely covers a dinner and a movie.
The wealthiest 20 per cent of the nation saw their incomes increase an average of 16.4 per cent in that same period.
The median incomes of the bottom fifth of the full-time job market fell 20.6 per cent.
The middle fifth saw their incomes stagnate, increasing just .1 per cent.
Though our economy is performing better than it has in 40 years, most of the nation’s workers are seeing no benefit on their paycheques.
Young Canadians are having a hard time getting ahead.
And immigrants are also seeing their incomes shrink.
“Canadians and their governments can’t keep ignoring this problem because it isn’t going away – in fact it’s only going to get worse,” said Armine Yalnizyan, an income inequality expert with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“There is an economic downturn on the horizon and, when that happens, fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for a lot of Canadians.”
Persistent poverty is a drag on social programs and on economic development.
And, when people figure out their chances at a better life are slim to nil, contempt for wider society grows.
A chasm between rich and poor can, literally and figuratively, tear a nation apart.
The nation’s governments and business leaders ignore these latest statistics at their peril. (RM)