One in three Canadians say they are living in a household that is experiencing financial hardship, a new Statistics Canada report has found.
Individuals aged 15 and older reported living in households that found it difficult or very difficult to pay for necessary expenses such as transportation, housing, food and clothing throughout the month of October.
The report, released Friday, found that 41.3 per cent of renters were more likely to struggle financially compared with those living in a residence owned by a household member with a mortgage. Financial pressure eased even more for those living with owners without a mortgage.
“While the proportion of people in households finding it either difficult or very difficult to meet financial needs in October 2023 was down slightly compared with the same month a year earlier (35.5%), it remained notably higher than the proportion recorded in October 2020 (20.4%),” the report said.
Among the largest regions in Canada, the highest proportion of people living in financially strapped households was in southern Ontario.
Almost half of respondents in the St. Catharines-Niagara area reported financial hardship at 41.8 per cent. Next was Windsor at 41 per cent, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo at 40.7 per cent, and Toronto at 38.1 per cent. The lowest proportion was in the Quebec City region at 20.5 per cent.
Year-over-year growth in the Consumer Price Index decelerated from a peak of 8.1 per cent in June 2022 to 3.8 per cent in September 2023, the report says, but many Canadians are still feeling a major financial pinch.
“The higher cost of essential goods and services continues to place financial pressures on many households across Canada. In September, for example, increases in the cost of shelter (+6.0%) and food (+5.9%) outpaced annual wage growth (+5.0%),” it said.
Almost half of immigrants who arrived in Canada in the last 10 years — 44.7 per cent — said they lived in a household experiencing financial hardship.
Lone-parent families in which the parents were not employed were the largest group in the report to have financial difficulties in their household, at a proportion of 69.8 per cent.
For Canadians living in dual-earner households with children, 36.1 per cent experienced difficulties meeting financial needs in October.
Among the largest racialized population groups, South Asian (47 per cent) and Black (43.9 per cent) Canadians were found to be more likely to live in a household with financial hardships. The proportion was lower for Chinese Canadians, at 26.8 per cent.
An Ipsos poll conducted in October found that a growing majority of Canadians believe owning a home has become a privilege that can only be afforded by the rich.
The poll, which surveyed 1,500 adults last month, also found 71 per cent of respondents live in communities where they say a housing crisis exists.
The impacts of a higher cost of living are also being felt at food banks across the country. Since March 2021, usage has jumped by almost 80 per cent across the country.
While the annual price growth for groceries cooled to 6.9 per cent in August from double-digit highs this time last year, trips to the grocery stores remain a pain point for Canadians squeezed between higher interest rates and an overall inflation rate of 4.0 per cent — still double the Bank of Canada’s targets.
The Bank of Canada has increased its benchmark rate by 4.75 percentage points since March 2022, with the bulk of the tightening coming last year. In announcing its second consecutive rate hold on Oct. 25, the central bank officials kept the door open to future hikes if needed to get inflation fully back beneath the two per cent target.
“It’s actually quite concerning,” says Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab.
— with files from Global News’ Craig Lord.
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