The Edmonton Social Planning Council today released the 2007 edition of its signature publication Tracking the Trends. The 97-page publication is a detailed examination of demographic, education and employment, living costs and housing, income and wealth, poverty and social trends that together comprise the social health of Edmontonians.

“By tracking these trends, we found that – despite a booming economy with record low unemployment and labour shortages – Edmonton’s social health index is mixed with some indicators up, others down, and a modest increase of 10.95 per cent since 1993,” says John Kolkman, Research and Policy Analysis Coordinator for the Council.

“Positive trends include strong economic and employment growth. Educational attainment is gradually rising. So is life expectancy.  Property and violent crime is trending down,” noted Kolkman.  “However, there is growing inequality in incomes and wealth.  There are more low-birth weight babies, increased incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, and higher rates of family violence.  These negative trends show we have a long way to go to improve social health in our community,” noted Kolkman.

Tracking the Trends also examines government income supports, finding these supports succeed in lifting only about 30 per cent of low-income families out of poverty.  Overall support levels have declined over time.

“Against a backdrop of rapidly rising costs for food, shelter and other essentials, the real value of monthly social assistance benefits in the past 25 years has dropped by over 50 per cent for families with children, and an even steeper 60 per cent for single adults,” noted Kolkman.

Most of this drop has taken place after 1993 when social assistance benefits were cut. The small increases since then have not prevented recipients from falling further behind.

“The April 19th provincial budget represents an opportunity to provide a measure of fairness to some of Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens.  The Council urges the government to significantly increase social assistance (Alberta Works) monthly benefit levels,” concluded Kolkman.

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