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UPDATED: Your stories: Readers sound off on payday loans, asset poverty, workforce woes, welfare trap

A man looks through jobs at a Resource Canada office in Montreal.
A man looks through jobs at a Resource Canada office in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Wow.

We’ve been overwhelmed by reader responses to our series on Canada’s instability trap. Our stories on Canada’s ebbing workforce, asset poverty and the payday loan cycle have clearly struck a chord with real people dealing with these challenges on a day-to-day basis. It’s troubling to be confronted by such potent evidence that, even as we’re told the country’s prospering, normal Canadians are struggling to simply get by. But it’s also a sign these are issues we need to keep discussing.

Do you have a story you want to share? Please tell us. Below are just a few of the hundreds of responses we’ve received so far. We’ll be publishing more, and following up with many of you in the days and weeks to come.

Posts have been edited for length and clarity.

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“The stigma that comes with people living on assistance is wrong”

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I’m an educated person who quit post-grad studies due to the recession as I couldn’t afford to take on any more debt at my age.

Social Assistance has its pros and cons. One of the greatest cons is that it’s very difficult to get off of it when they are taking dollar for dollar what you make at a job. What they should do is leave the monies earned until the person is well past the three-month probationary period when employers do not have to give a reason to terminate a worker.

Food costs and rent costs are out of touch and unrealistic for anyone living below the poverty line.

I am on provincial disability and I can tell you as a single mother it’s not easy.

I believe that when a government job is posted it should be offered to people living on assistance/disability prior to it being offered to the public. The stigma that comes with people living on assistance is wrong and not every person on it is lazy, a drug user or a “parasite” as society likes to call us.

It’s shameful for anyone to make someone struggling to live feel like they do not matter. I cannot even take on a minimum wage job as my student loan payments are more than $600 per month. Then rent, food, hydro bills, etc. on top of that.

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Social Assistance and even provincial disabilities are set up for people to fail.

Sharna

“It’s not that I don’t want to work; it just doesn’t pay to do so.”

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As a single mother of two children, I felt a need to represent what a responsible adult is to them. That meant working for a living.

The only jobs I could find were part-time in retail. The money was very little, but I got into a low-income housing program which made it possible. Still, it was a struggle.

Part-time retail work means working evenings and weekends (not typical daycare hours) and less family time. I had to fight with my employer to get an availability that allowed me to get home in time to put my children to bed. I also didn’t have medical benefits so my son’s medication, all dental work and my daughter’s glasses came out of my pocket. I lived this way for ten years.

When I entered a new relationship and had another child, my husband and I looked over the costs and benefits of me returning to work and decided against it. The high cost of daycare for an infant and a child with special needs would take my whole paycheck. It’s not that I don’t want to work; it just doesn’t pay to do so.

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April

“A circle of debt”

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I have owned a pawnshop in Edmonton for over 25 years. Over these years I have seen the damage caused by payday enders. I understand the need of acquiring a short term loan for those unexpected surprises in life. I’ve been there myself! The problem with payday loans is “they trap an individual in a circle of debt,” which is next to impossible to get out of.
I take offence to the payday loan industry slamming the mom and pop pawnbroker time and time again. A collateral loan is in most cases half the cost of a payday loan and most importantly, “pawn loans are a non recourse loan.” Simply put, if you can’t afford to repay your loan, don’t pick up your article and best of all, we are not going to hound you with phone calls or threaten legal action.
That being said, the answer to the problem may be as simple as the Federal government legislating the big banks to provide short term loans to those who need it!

Kelly

“Our brightest people are getting sick … and dropping out of the workforce.”

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Working as a lecturer at three or four universities at a time with an MA and most of my doctorate finished was paying $27K annually. Child care for two costs $33K, and the long hours on the road between universities – around fifty hours per week – made me very ill for a period of time with no short-term disability benefits to boot. I’ve since quit that dead-end professorial career to work as a part-time administrative assistant on my spouse’s IT company despite twelve years of grad school on the professor track. Employers, including our institutions of higher education, expect good people to work themselves sick for no pay or benefits. With two kids to raise and a dependent sister to think about, my life and health weren’t worth destroying in order to work for free (after child care my income was negative). Unfortunately there are enough desperate PhDs out there that the churn through our collective health continues. So many of our brightest people are getting sick – mentally and/or physically – and dropping out of the workforce. My supervisor on one course died at 48, I suspect of the same staph infection I got at the time – immune system weak from exhaustion. Scary stuff out there in the university contract trenches, like tales from before labour laws existed. Although I’m sad for the demise of quality university programs due to worker exploitation, it’s just wasn’t worth sacrificing my health and well being to remain in the field.

Erika

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