Reduced Poverty = Better Health for All. The 2010 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada: 1989 2010. A Report by Campaign 2000, November 2010.
The 2010 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada argues that poverty is a key health determinant and that reduced poverty leads to better health for all. This argument is based on previous extensive research focused on the relationship of poverty and health status which has shown that people with lower incomes consistently have worse health than people with higher incomes. Research has also shown that children living in low income families are more likely to encounter health-related problems than other children.
According to the report, in comparison to children from wealthier families, children from low-income families are more likely to suffer from or experience:
- Low birth weights, asthma, type 2 diabetes and malnutrition.
- Disability at 2.5 more times than those from wealthier families.
- Lack of access to medical and community support.
- Lack of benefit plans for prescription drugs, vision and dental care.
- Learning disabilities, emotional difficulties and behavioural problems.
- Addictions and mental health
- Higher death rates due to unintentional deaths.
The report also shows that infant mortality rates are related to national poverty rates, and that low incomes lead to food insecurity as low food budgets reduce the quality and/or quantity of food; the increase in Type 2 diabetes is now attributed to poor dietary habits.
Poverty in Canada
The report takes a critical look at poverty in Canada. It notes that despite the House of Commons 1989 unanimous resolution to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by year 2000, and the House of Commons 2009 vote to develop an immediate plan to end poverty for all in Canada, nearly 1 in 10 persons, including 1 in every 10 children, still lived in poverty by 2010.
The report predicts increased poverty rates in 2009-2010 arising from the recent recession. Data has already shown that the high level of economic growth between 1998 and mid-2008 did not lead to an equivalent reduction in child and family poverty. The poverty rate only went down slightly from 11.9% in 1989 to 9.1% in 2008. The recent recession worsens the problem with between 750,000 and 1.8 million people expected to sink into the poverty bracket, based on past recessions.
The recession is expected to further impact families through increased household debt, massive job losses, inability to find full-time employment and low wages amongst others 1 in 10 workers still earned less that $10 an hour in 2009 while 19% earned less than $12.
The report identifies the following key concerns about the current poverty status in Canada:
- Children of immigrants, of Aboriginal identity, and in racialized families are at greater risks of poverty than others. Also at risk are female lone parent families and those with children with disabilities.
- The growing gap between the rich and poor.
- The unique situation of Aboriginal children and families 1 in every 4 children among Aboriginal communities are growing up in poverty.
- Failure of employment to guarantee a pathway out of poverty recent statistics show that 1 in 3 low income children had at least one parent who worked full time.
- The absence of a systematic and national approach to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), which has been determined to affect health in a variety of ways.
- The increasing difficulty for marginalized students to access post-secondary education especially with increased tuition fees in most provinces.
The report identifies legal, economic and ethical reasons why Canada needs to address poverty issues. Previous research estimates savings of up to $7.6 billion in healthcare by raising the incomes of the poorest 20% and reducing the healthcare expenditures to the same level as the richest 20%.
To address the issue of poverty in Canada, the report proposes that:
- All federal parties work together to develop a plan to eradicate poverty in Canada in collaboration with provinces, territories, communities and First Nations. The plan should include:
Secure this plan within legislation that includes targets, timelines, a transparent accountability structure and a defined role for citizen participation, in particular low-income people.
The plan should include enhanced income supports, community services and good jobs.
- An enhanced child benefit for low-income families to a maximum of $5,400 ($2010) per child;
- A system of high-quality early childhood education and child care services that is affordable and available to all children (0-12 years);
- Restored and expanded eligibility for Employment Insurance;
- Increased federal work tax credits of $2,400 per year;
- A federal minimum wage of $11 per hour;
- A strategy for affordable housing, secured in legislation such as Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, including substantial federal funding for social housing;
- Proactive strategies, including employment equity in the public and private sectors, to level the employment playing field for racialized communities and other historically disadvantaged groups;
The report identifies some positive steps in the fight against poverty: (1) Some provinces have begun to examine, reform or even transform their ECEC situations by moving towards a more systematic approach; (2) As of 2010, six provinces have adopted poverty reduction strategies and the territories are also addressing poverty; (3) Campaign 2000, a non-partisan coalition of over 120 organizational across all regions of Canada that is urging for a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada.
Review by Helen Rugoiyo