The Edmonton Social Planning Council, Public Interest Alberta, and the Alberta College of Social Workers released a new report, “Keep Investing in Alberta’s Children: The Government’s Role in Ending Child and Family Poverty.”
“We were pleased to see a variety of new and improved investments in Alberta’s children and families with the 2017-18 provincial budget,” said Heather Curtis, Research Coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. She noted that there are a variety of key initiatives including the improvement of the child and family benefits, which transfers more money directly into the pockets of low and modest income Alberta families.
As of 2015, which is the most recent data available, there are 149,700 children ages 0 to 17 living in poverty, up from 144,620 in 2014, equating to 15.7% of Albertan children living below the poverty line. Since 2005, there has been a modest reduction of 2 percentage points of the proportion of children living in poverty. While Alberta’s rate is significantly lower than other provinces, there is still much work to be done to make substantial progress.
The report shows that low-income, lone-parent families in Alberta experience a significant poverty gap, meaning their median after-tax incomes are significantly lower than the poverty line for the same family type. Curtis explains how the poverty gap may change in coming years: “Next year we will begin to see the impacts of improved child and family benefits on the child poverty rate and the poverty gap. It is likely the proportion of children living in poverty will decrease and the poverty gap for low-income families will be less significant.”
The report shows that Alberta’s income inequality has increased faster than the national average, with the top 1% of earners seeing real income gains of 74.4% since 1982 while the bottom half of income earners only saw a small gain of 10%.
Between April 2016 and March 2017, 292,400 employees (15.5%) in Alberta are classified as low wage earners, meaning they make less than $15/hour. 73.8% of low wage workers are over the age of 20, contradicting the myth that only teenagers living with their parents work in low wage jobs.
Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta noted that Alberta’s tax system continually generates an unnecessarily low amount of revenue, which limits the government’s ability to address child poverty. He explained, “If Alberta had the tax system of any other province, the lowest amount of additional annual revenue we would generate would be $8.7 billion. If the government does not fix our tax system to address its massive shortage in tax revenue, longer-term reductions in child and family poverty levels will be impossible.”
For more information, please contact:
Edmonton Social Planning Council
Public Interest Alberta