March 15, 2017 7:00 am
Updated: March 16, 2017 12:05 am

B.C. has Canada’s worst-performing economy for younger generations: report

WATCH: A new University of British Columbia study confirms housing costs have outpaced average incomes. As Paul Johnson reports, it means the province's millennials are getting squeezed economically more than any of their counterparts in Canada.


It’s tough out there for young people in B.C. Just ask Generation Squeeze.

B.C. is Canada’s “worst-performing economy” for younger generations, said a report released Wednesday by the organization that advocates on behalf of Canadians in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

“When you live here in B.C., we’re presented with a range of commercials paid for by B.C. which present B.C. as the land of opportunity,” Generation Squeeze founder Paul Kershaw told Global News.

“They make that claim largely based on referring to the fact that we have the best economic growth rates in the country.

“But it begs the question, how good is that economic growth? What does it mean for people on the ground?”

READ MORE: Numbers show it’s harder for millennials to buy a home than it was for their parents

For young people, it has meant lower earnings, more debt and more difficulty buying a home, the report said.

WATCH BELOW: The B.C. government consistently trumpets this province’s strong economy, but a new report says it’s the worst in the country when it comes to young people. John Hua has more on this.

B.C.’s GDP may have grown by 2.5 per cent since the 1980s. But earnings in that time have dropped faster for young people in B.C. than any other province, it noted.

Median full-time earnings for 25- to 34-year-olds in 2014, the last year for which data was available, were down by over $8,400 from the period of 1976 to 1980.

Meanwhile, median earnings for this age group across Canada fell by just over $4,000.

This table shows how much median full-time earnings for 25- to 34-year-olds have dropped across Canada since 1976.

Generation Squeeze

The drop in earnings hasn’t just hit younger people — though it has been particularly tough on them.

WATCH: Paul Kershaw of Generation Squeeze explains how his study shows B.C. has the weakest economy for young people

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B.C. has endured the “worst trends in full-time earnings for all age groups of any province in Canada” in the same time period, the report said.

Full-time earnings fell by $9,600 for the typical 35- to 44-year-old, and by $6,700 for the typical 45- to 54-year-old.

They fell less dramatically for the typical 55- to 64-year-old — that group only lost $3,380.

READ MORE: If you want to make above-average money, B.C. may be your worst bet

This trend has taken place as home prices have skyrocketed in the province — and much of that acceleration has happened since 2001, when the BC Liberals first formed a government.

The average cost of a home in B.C. climbed by $474,338 from 1976 to 2016, faster than any other province.

The bulk of that increase, $398,150, came since 2001.

This chart shows how much average home prices have climbed in B.C. since 1976.

Generation Squeeze

The home price growth has been particularly tough on young people trying to save money for a 20 per cent down payment.

It only took young adults about five years to save enough money for such a payment between 1976 and 1980, Kershaw said.

That has since climbed to 18.5 years, more than any province in Canada.

READ MORE: Canada’s worst cities for full-time jobs

And the number of years needed to save for a down payment has climbed much faster since the BC Liberals first took office.

Back then, you would only have needed to work full-time for 8.2 years to save for a 20 per cent down payment. That has since gone up by about a decade. That’s more than it has under any governing party since 1976.

“Young British Columbia residents have lost the output from 10 years of full-time work when it comes to saving for a down payment on a home,” Kershaw told Global News.

This chart shows how many years it took to save for a 20 per cent down payment under the Social Credit party, the BC NDP and the BC Liberals.

Generation Squeeze

Kershaw was careful to note that growing home prices aren’t necessarily a BC Liberal problem: “That’s a reality from coast to coast, and you’ll see in Ontario a similar trend to some degree as we have in B.C.”

But he did say that the province has been slow to acknowledge the growing gap between earnings and home prices.

“I think it’s just taken a while for the incumbent government to get its head around the fact that high home prices are not uniformly good, and that’s hard for an incumbent government to accept,” Kershaw said.

Christy Clark on election night in Vancouver on May 14, 2013 after her party won in the B.C. provincial election.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail via CP

Generation Squeeze also identified debt as a growing problem for younger British Columbians.

Government debt levels have only risen slightly since the BC Liberals have been in office, the report noted.

But personal debt for the typical household headed by a person under 35 has risen sharply, by about $20,000, while “net wealth barely grew at all.”

This growth was blamed on factors such as post-secondary tuition, rent and child care.

READ MORE: Canada created lots of jobs last year. Almost all were part-time: TD

There are ways to measure debt outside finances, however.

Younger citizens are also being saddled with “environmental debt” as the province fails to reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the report said.

Per capita emissions have fallen by about three tonnes per person since the BC Liberals first assumed office. But they haven’t shown any noticeable change since 2011, when Christy Clark became premier.

“This leaves a massive environmental debt for younger citizens with emissions in our province still roughly 10 times higher than is sustainable for the coming decades,” it said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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