- OTTAWA (CP) -- Does it feel like you're working harder but just can't
seem to get ahead? StatsCan says you may be right.
- The average household is no wealthier
than it was 20 years ago, according to figures released Wednesday by Statistics
- Household incomes, on average, were $50,672
in 1997 before taxes were deducted or government benefits factored in,
the agency said.
- That's actually a few bucks less than
1978 levels of $50,707 -- even though there were far fewer dual-income
families in the 1970s than today.
- All the figures are adjusted to 1997
dollars, StatsCan said.
- Families are working longer and harder,
yet finding it increasingly difficult to get ahead, say economists and
researchers who study family issues.
- "In real terms, the standard of
living of Canadians has fallen in the '90s, so we're now no better off
than we were 20 years ago," labour economist Jim Stanford said from
- "That is an incredible condemnation
of the way our economy is working, because our economy is far more productive
than it was 20 years ago and more Canadians are working."
- Poor families are becoming poorer as
government programs, from welfare to employment insurance, are cut, the
- The number of children in low-income
families jumped 37 per cent between 1989 and 1997, even though the number
of kids in Canada grew only six per cent over the same period.
- Even top income earners lost a bit of
ground in 1997, possibly due to lower interest rates eroding investment
and retirement income.
- Governments should strengthen laws governing
employment equity, union organizing and minimum wages to promote better
pay for workers, said Stanford, economist with the Canadian Auto Workers
- Given the 1997 boom in the Canadian economy,
it's especially strange that average family income actually slid a bit
compared with the year before, said Andrew Sharpe of Ottawa's Centre for
the Study of Living Standards.
- "One would hope that with strong
economic growth, one would reverse this trend (of flat family incomes)
but the numbers are certainly surprising."
- Gross domestic product jumped 3.8 per
cent in 1997, compared with the more sedate pace of three per cent growth
- Yet, average household income after taxes
and government aid totalled $57,146 in 1997 -- almost $400 less than 1996's
- The drop came despite the fact more Canadians
were working in 1997, when employment jumped almost two per cent.
- At the same time, average hours worked
per week grew by 30 minutes to 37.9 hours in 1997.
- And the number of two-income households
has skyrocketed -- from 30 per cent of Canadian families 30 years ago,
to 70 per cent today.
- But many jobs created in recent years
have been low-paying, either part-time work and self-employment, said Sharpe.
At the same time, wages have been almost stagnant.
- Part of the problem may be excessive
expectations by individuals and the economy, suggested Robert Glossop of
the Vanier Institute of the Family.
- Consumer demand is essential to economic
growth, driving about two-thirds of the Canada's GDP.
- Yet, we can't afford to keep spending
at the levels we became accustomed to in the post-First World War boom,
- "To suggest that we're greedy, yes,
but we do live in an economy that manipulates our appetites as consumers."
- "But if we do not continue to increase
our appetites as consumers, then the whole economy starts to shake."