With the release of new Census 2021 data by Statistics Canada on July 13, 2022, Daily Bread Food Bank is commenting on the policy ramifications of these findings.
First, income inequality has decreased, as after-tax household income grew by 9.8% in 2020 compared to 2015. This was largely driven by government programs, accessed by 20.7 million adults, for financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes new programs, like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) as well as top-ups to existing programs, like the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), in addition to localized provincial or territorial government programs that provided income security for millions of Canadians in a time of uncertainty.
The low-income rate fell overall to 11.1% in 2020 from 14.4% in 2015, and the number of Canadians who reported no income shrank by nearly a million compared to 2019. It’s also worth mentioning that lower-income families with children saw their after-tax income increase by 10.5% in 2020 compared to 2015, lifting many children out of poverty.
Secondly, the compositions of households in Canada are changing.
While 4.4 million people lived alone in 2021, according to Stats Canada, the number of homes shared by roommates increased by 54% from 2001 to 2021, the fastest growth of any household type. From 2016 to 2021, it’s a 14% increase, a trend that is more prevalent in urban areas, such as Toronto and Vancouver.
Furthermore, multigenerational households have increased by 45% from 2001 to 2021, with 1 million multigenerational households in Canada in 2021 – accounting for 7% of all households.
While these changes could be a result of many factors, such as the need for support networks during the pandemic or due to cultural preferences, it is no doubt accelerated in part by the proliferation of unaffordable housing and the rise of precarious labour in cities and towns alike.
Last, but not least, the new data confirms the persistence of the gender pay gap as men earned 35% more than women according to median income rates.
Women face disproportionate inequities in employment, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As noted in Who’s Hungry 2021, women have accounted for 53.7% of the year-over-year employment losses, as the burden of additional childcare responsibilities have disproportionately fallen on women during the pandemic.
This comes despite a 22.8% increase in post-tax income for single-parent households headed by a woman, of which 80% of single-parent households are, denoting the largest income increase among all households thanks to the Canada Child Benefit and its top-ups during the pandemic.
Daily Bread continues to see a steady rise in food bank visits as the cost-of-living rises, wages stagnate and the lack of affordable housing continues to strain extremely limited resources, especially among lower-income households.
In March 2022, Daily Bread released a report published by Dr Ron Kneebone and Margarita Wilkins from the University of Calgary, that confirmed clients are accessing services most when their income is restrained. Those key findings, in tandem with today’s data, reaffirm how critical income security is to tackling food insecurity and poverty in our communities.
Combined with more affordable housing, sustainably paying jobs in a strong economy, and social assistance rates that support a basic, dignified standard of living, the solution to ending hunger in our city has never been clearer.