While Edmonton’s economy has generated lots of jobs in recent years, this has not translated into real income gains for most families and households, according to a new report released today by the Edmonton Social Planning Council.
"The report set out to answer why - with plentiful jobs and record employment levels - so many working Edmontonians are having such a difficult time making ends meet," said John Kolkman, the Council’s Research and Policy Analysis Coordinator and the report’s author. "We found that while Edmonton’s current boom is generating a large number of jobs, it’s not doing nearly as well at generating higher paying jobs with benefits," he added.
The 51-page report, entitled ‘Standing Still in a Booming Economy,’ uses Statistics Canada data to track household incomes and earnings, and then compares them to economic growth rates over time periods of twenty years or longer. The report contains numerous tables and charts showing that employment earnings and household incomes are lagging behind growth in the Edmonton economy.
"GDP per person has been growing at a rate almost two times faster than median employment earnings over the past twenty years," says Kolkman. "A larger share of the economic pie is being added to corporate bottom lines rather than going to personal incomes. Moreover, much of the increase in personal incomes is going to the top ten per cent of households," he added.
Six focus groups were held to listen directly to the concerns of those living in low income working households. The 75 participants talked about being caught in a squeeze between low paying and insecure jobs on the one hand, and rising costs for food, shelter and other essentials on the other.
The report’s fifteen recommendations include: raising the minimum wage to a benchmark such as the low income cut-off; addressing labour shortages by improving wages and benefits for government contracted services; improving access to quality child care; and phasing out Alberta Health Care Premiums.
"These practical solutions will go a long way to ensuring that more Edmontonians share in the current prosperity," Kolkman concluded.
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