Child poverty rates in Saskatchewan are among the highest in the country says a new report released by the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of Regina.
Based on 2017 data — the latest available from Statistics Canada — over 72,200 children in the province between the ages of zero and 17 are considered poor as defined by the United Nations.
The findings were released on Jan. 14 in the “Child and Family Poverty in Saskatchewan: 2019 Report” and was published by the University of Regina and Campaign 2000, a non-partisan group committed to ending child and family poverty.
With 26.2 per cent of Saskatchewan children being poor, the province has the third-highest poverty rate in Canada, behind the Territory of Nunavut at 31.2 per cent and Manitoba at 27.9 per cent.
The rate for Canada in 2017 was 18.6 per cent.
Poverty rates are even higher for younger children. The report found 37.8 per cent of children living below the poverty line are between zero and six years of age.
Report calls for better distribution of wealth
The report was critical of the government of Saskatchewan for failing to invest in social services specifically during the province’s economic boom of 2009 until the end of the growth cycle in 2014.
Although the report found incomes and corporate income grew during that period, it had little change on the poverty line.
“Little if any of the economic benefits reached the poorest in the province,” said the report, written by Garson Hunter and Miguel Sanchez, both who are professors at the Faculty of Social Work at the U of R.
Poverty rates showed little change in the last 10 years says the report. In 2009, the poverty rate for children was 29.1 per cent and 27.1 per cent in 2015, after the boom ended.
More social spending needed says report
Nearly 40 per cent of Saskatchewan children would be considered poor if there wasn’t social spending in place, says the report.
“Government social programs play an important role in mitigating poverty through transfers in the form of child tax benefits, tax credits, and social assistance,” reads the report.
“Responsible taxation, including the wealthy and corporations would go a long way in remedying the large disparity of distribution of income in Saskatchewan. There is a need to develop such a system.”
For example, the report found about 9.5 per cent of Saskatchewan children who received the federal child benefit were lifted from the poverty line.
The report dispels arguments that job growth reduces poverty showing that as incomes and corporate income grew in Saskatchewan from 2004 to 2014, it had little effect on the poverty line.
In 2004, the poverty rate was 24.6 per cent and in 2014 it was 27.5 per cent compared to 26.2 per cent in 2017.
What this shows is the “gap between rich and poor has grown” says the report.
The full report can be found here.