24 per cent of Saskatchewan children live in poverty: report

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24 per cent of Saskatchewan children live in poverty: report
The statistics are alarming: almost one quarter of Saskatchewan children live in poverty. And a new study from the University of Regina finds that when first nations children are included, that number increases to fifty per cent. David Baxter looks behind the numbers – Nov 21, 2017

In Saskatchewan 24.1 per cent of children live in poverty. That’s according to a new study from two University of Regina social work associate professors Miguel Sanchez and Garson Hunter.

“It’s frustrating. It’s depressing,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez has been publishing these annual reports for 20 years. Last year’s found the 2010 child poverty rate in Saskatchewan was 23 per cent. It was 24.6 per cent in 2014, and 24.1 per cent in 2015.

That amount doubles for First Nations children, where 50 per cent live in poverty. Immigrant children also see increased rates of poverty at 29.6 per cent. Only Manitoba and Nunavut have higher child poverty rates at 27.5 per cent and 36.1 per cent respectively.

The national average for child poverty is 17.4 per cent.

“There’s a large number of working poor who are below the poverty line. It indicates that the wages that people are receiving is not enough to provide them with sufficient income to have a decent life,” Sanchez said.

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Based on Statistics Canada data Sanchez and Hunter found low income can be classed as anything between $18,000 annually for a single person with no children to just over $36,000 for a couple with two children.

The income of many people living below the poverty line is significantly below it. The report details the median income for people and couples with children tends to be $12,000-$13,000 below the poverty line.

Hunter said this is a systemic issue.

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“We have to stop thinking that by lowering our income tax rate for corporations so low it’ll attract investment, because we don’t see long term growth in jobs after this has occurred,” he said.

READ MORE: Child poverty rates in Saskatchewan higher than national average

The co-authors are calling on a major societal overhaul to better address poverty, as current means are leaving too many people behind in their view.

Peter Gilmer with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry said this study is reflective of what he encounters in his work on the frontlines. . Gilmer is a supporter of a $15/hour minimum wage and increased social assistance benefits as a tool to pull more people out of poverty.

He said the cost of employing these tools would greatly reduce spending in other areas associated with poverty.

“We’re spending 3.8 billion a year in terms of the cost of poverty, in terms of our healthcare system, our justice system, our family support systems,” Gilmer said.

The does not include calls for action from provincial or federal levels of government. The authors said government knows the data, but is not doing enough to address it already.

Sanchez and Hunter do recognize that government initiatives, like child tax benefits and income assistance, are reducing the rates of child poverty. Their report says around 32.6 per cent of Saskatchewan children would be living in poverty without these supports.

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Saskatchewan social services minister Paul Merriman was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Assistant deputy social services minister Lynn Allan said in a statement the ministry is still reviewing this report.

Allan’s statement goes onto read that the ministry is committed to working with their community partners on the province’s 10-year Poverty Reduction Strategy. The end goal is to reduce who experience poverty for two year by 50 per cent by 2025.

Initiatives currently being undertaken to achieve this goal include simplifying and making it easier to access social assistance and providing new housing options to those who have difficulty maintaining secure housing.

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