The Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) today released the 2018 edition of its flagship publication Tracking the Trends. The 131-page publication provides a detailed analysis of social and economic trends in Edmonton. Information is provided about population demographics, education and employment, living costs & housing, income & wealth, poverty & government transfers, and key indicators of Edmonton’s social health.
Planning Strategically for the Future:
“Edmonton is the youngest major city in Canada and the only one that has become younger in the past ten years,” noted John Kolkman, the report’s lead author. “Not only does this mean that we need to build more seniors housing, but booming enrolments means Edmonton also has to build many new schools.”
- Bucking national trends, in the most recent ten year period, Edmonton has become slightly younger as the median age fell from 36.1 to 35.7 years (p.5);
“A key message in this year’s Tracking the Trends is that – despite a difficult economy caused by struggling oil and natural gas prices – Edmonton is still attracting thousands of newcomers from around the world who are eager to make a contribution in their new home. At quite a rapid rate, Edmonton is becoming increasingly diverse racially and culturally,” said Kolkman.
- The number of immigrants and refugees permanently settling in metro Edmonton increased by 270% between 2000 and 2017 (p. 7);
- Reflecting this increased diversity, the number of non-Indigenous Edmontonians who are visible minorities (non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour) more than tripled from 110,160 in 1996 (18.1% of Edmontonians) to 339,040 in 2016 (37.1% of Edmontonians) (p. 9); and
- The number of Indigenous people living in the city (50,280) and region (76,205) has grown at about double the rate of the overall population in the past twenty years (p. 6).
“A consistently positive trend is the continuing improvement in educational attainment both in terms of high school graduation and post-secondary completion,” said Kolkman. “This trend is particularly impressive considering the extra challenges posed by the rapid growth in the number of English Language Learners in our schools,” he added.
- For the past 15 years in which data is available, the three-year high school completion rate for the Edmonton Public School District improved by 18.4% from 57.0% in the 2000/01 school year to 75.4% in 2015/16.
- In the Edmonton Catholic School District, the three-year completion rate improved by 24.8% from 59.7% in 2000/01 to 84.5% in the 2015/16 year.
Economic Picture Not Great
Kolkman noted that the economic picture in Edmonton is more negative with many of the employment and income support trends getting worse or at best stuck in neutral for the past several years:
- Despite modest improvement toward the end of the year, the unemployment rate averaged 8.1% in 2017, a twenty-year high (p. 38).
- Vulnerable groups are being particularly hard hit with the unemployment rate for Indigenous people averaging 13.4% in 2017 and youth unemployment averaging 14.9%. (p. 50, 51);
- The number of people receiving Employment Insurance regular benefits peaked at a twenty year high of 27,388 in 2016, and declined only slightly to 24,894 in 2017 (p. 98);
- The number of Edmonton households relying on Alberta Works (income support) benefits hit 27,439 in 2017, also a twenty-year high (p. 98).
Income Inequality Significant
While median after-tax incomes are up overall, much of this increase has gone to the highest income earners:
- Between 1982 and 2015, the top 1% of Edmonton taxfilers have seen their after-tax incomes go up by 69.7%, after accounting for inflation, compared to only a 3.2% increase for the bottom 50% of taxfilers (p. 72);
- There continues to be a significant income gap based on gender. In 2015, female taxfilers median after-tax was $30,580, or 63.7% of the $47,990 in after-tax income for male taxfilers (p. 75).
- Employment earnings provide the main source of income for all family types including 72.2% of the total income for lone-parent families in 2015 (p. 77).
- Despite recent increases in Alberta’s minimum wage, over one in five (21.5%) Edmonton workers earned below the $16.31 living wage (p. 79).
Tracking the Trends 2018 includes the most recently available poverty and low wage trends:
- 135,240 people in metro Edmonton lived in poverty in 2015, 10.5% of the population (p. 87).
- The younger a person is, the greater the likelihood they will be living in poverty. 41,580 of those living in poverty were children and youth under 18, or 15.2% of all children and youth (p. 88);
- Government income transfers, especially refundable child benefits, are a crucial tool in lifting children and youth out of poverty. In the absence of these transfers, child poverty would have been 27.3% higher in 2015. The poverty reduction impacts of new and enhanced federal and provincial child benefits – introduced in mid-year 2016 –should lift even more children out of poverty (p. 97).
Edmontonians Still Struggling to get Enough Food
- Edmonton’s Food Bank served 23,181 individuals through its hamper program in March 2017, the fourth consecutive year usage was up (p. 65).
“Timely, accurate information is critical to informed decision-making,” said Kolkman. Tracking the Trends 2018 is a one-stop resource for identifying and analyzing a broad range of social and economic trends impacting those with low and modest incomes in our community,” he concluded.