The most vulnerable Canadians are more likely to be worried about feeding their families as high inflation and interest rates take their toll, new polling shows, while fears of a recession threaten to compound the rising cost of living.
While headline inflation has abated in recent months, Ipsos polling conducted exclusively for Global News shows that 84 per cent of Canadians are still worried that inflation will make everyday things less affordable, just one percentage point lower than the survey conducted in June.
As inflation remains well above the Bank of Canada’s comfort zone of two per cent and the central bank raises the cost of borrowing to tamp down those pressures, Ipsos polling shows women and younger Canadians are especially worried about making ends meet.
Some 88 per cent of women and 92 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 said they were concerned about the affordability of everyday things, compared with 84 per cent of average Canadians, according to the survey conducted Oct. 18-20.
These groups were also more likely to be worried about feeding their families, the polling shows.
Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs, tells Global News that the polling also included a snapshot of young families, showing that 60 per cent of those with kids are worried about putting food on the table compared with 40 per cent of households without children.
“What we do know is that many feel that they are struggling to get by. They’re struggling to keep up, things are rising faster than their incomes are,” he says. “And at the end of the day, many are worried, particularly parents, that they may not actually have enough money to feed their family. That’s very concerning.”
Women, youth struck by recession fears
Most Canadians are also not optimistic about the road ahead, the polling found.
Some 83 per cent of those surveyed feel Canada will soon tip into a recession, a sentiment held more widely among women (89 per cent) than men (78 per cent). More than half (54 per cent) of the 18-34 age cohort is concerned about losing their job if the economy doesn’t improve, compared to 33 per cent of average Canadians.
Simpson notes that these fears aren’t necessarily unfounded. When Canada fell into recession at the onset of the pandemic, it was these demographics — women and youth — who saw some of the biggest drops in employment as sectors such as the service industry took a hit.
“Women and young people are experiencing the financial realities different than the rest of Canadians,” he says. “They’ve got very recent memory of economic hardship.”
Melissa Leong, author of the Happy Go Money finance guide, told Global News in an email that there are a “myriad” of reasons why women would feel the pain of economic hardship more than men.
In addition to facing a long-standing gender pay gap and career hurdles if they choose to have kids — the “motherhood penalty,” Leong calls it — women are disproportionately the ones taking on unpaid labour in the home such as managing the family’s finances.
Because of this, women are the ones more likely to see the impact of inflation first-hand when shopping for school supplies or groceries, she notes.
Holiday stresses and opportunities
The Ipsos polling also touched on Canadians’ concerns heading into the busy — and often expensive — holiday shopping season.
While 45 per cent of respondents said they were worried about being able to afford holiday gifts for loved ones this year, that concern rose to 66 per cent among younger Canadians aged 18-34.
Sandy Yong, author of The Money Master, tells Global News that while the holidays can be a source of financial anxiety, there are ways to mitigate the pressure and even make it work for you.
For some youth, the holidays could offer a time to pick up extra hours of seasonal work as businesses seek to fill out their shifts during the busy shopping season, she says.
Yong notes that many retailers and, with the advent of online shopping, delivery companies could be in need of low-skill labour that students or recent graduates can take on at short notice, hopefully easing the burden of inflation.
When it comes to your own shopping, she recommends planning ahead and setting a firm budget for each gift you plan to buy. If you know the exact item you need, comparison shop or wait a little while longer before those items go on sale and you could stretch your dollar a bit further, Yong adds.
“Hopefully you can snag a couple of good deals during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales.”
Pay down debt and focus on what you can control
Leong said that with inflation and interest rates adding stress, all Canadians can ease their worries by focusing on what they can control, rather than worrying about what the economy or stock market will do next.
She recommends getting an emergency fund set up in a savings account and paying down debt with the highest interest or that you can quickly get off your balance sheet. After that, take a close look at your budget to understand exactly where your money is going.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, assess your cash flow and categorize your expenditures so you have a better idea of where you can cut back or what your surplus is; clarity will bring comfort,” Leong said.
Yong agrees and says debt — especially loans that are affected by interest rate hikes — is a common area where Canadians lose track of their spending. Buy-now-pay-later plans can especially get out of hand, and she recommends not taking on new payments in this vein as finances get tight.
Putting debt payments alongside monthly expenses can help to put it in context and eliminate the costliest drains on your budget, says Yong. Getting debt payments “under control” can give vulnerable families “a bit more breathing room,” she says.
“Looking at your budget holistically is a way to see where things are out of line.”
— With files from Global News’ Anne Gaviola
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between October 18-20, 2022, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.