Looking for action to change BC’s Child Poverty Story
Data in the 2017 BC Child Poverty Report Card, released November 21, 2017, by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, highlights how growing income inequality among BC families has one in five of our children living in poverty, as well as the kinds of policies that keep children and families locked in poverty.
Using the most recent data, the report shows BC’s child poverty rate for children age 0-17 in 2015 was 18.3%, representing 153,300 children. This is nearly a full percentage point higher than the national average of 17.4%. It is down slightly from the 2014 rate of 19.8%.
In 2015, while BC children made up just 18% of the province’s total population, they made up 22% of all British Columbians living in poverty.
The full report contains new 2016 census data highlighting the much higher poverty rates among some groups of children in the province, with recent immigrant children at 45%, off-reserve Aboriginal children at 31%, and racialized (‘visible minority’) children at 23%.
“Children living in lone-parent families continue to have the highest poverty rate at 47.7%, or close to one in every two children in these family type, says Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of First Call. “As most of these families are led by women, this points to the continued need to make sure our poverty reduction efforts address issues disproportionately affecting women, such as the gender wage gap and the lack of affordable quality child care.”
Other key findings in the 2017 report include:
- In 2015, the child poverty rate for children in lone-parent families (47.7%) was more than four times the rate (11.2%) for their counterparts in couple families
- 2% of the 14,490 children living with grandparents, alone or with relatives, non-relatives or in foster care, were living in poverty
- Nearly half (45%) of recent immigrant children were poor, one in three (31%) Indigenous children were poor (not counting children living on First Nations reserves), and 23% of racialized (‘visible minority’) children were poor
- In 2015, a single parent with one child working full-time for the whole year for minimum wage would have only earned $18,761, leaving them $10,111 below the $28,872 LIM before-tax poverty line
- Poor families with two children in BC in 2015 had median incomes that were $11,000 below the poverty line. This means over half of them were even deeper in poverty
- The 2017 Metro Vancouver homelessness count found 386 homeless children and youth under 25 years, including 201 children under the age of 19
- For a couple with two children on welfare in 2015, their total income was $23,468, just 64% of the poverty line income of $36,426, leaving them $12,958 below the poverty line
- Approximately 85% of the poor children in BC live in the province’s 25 urban areas. However children living outside urban areas had a 23.3% poverty rate, much higher than the provincial child poverty rate of 18.3%
- Across BC, 23 out of the 29 regional districts had at least 1,000 children living in poverty. Metro Vancouver had 76,880 poor children, representing 50% of the poor children in BC
- The income of BC’s richest 10% of families with children took home 24% of the income pie, compared to the 2% shared by the poorest 10% of families
“Poverty affects children’s development and robs them of their potential,” said Michael McKnight, president and CEO of United Way of the Lower Mainland. “It’s imperative for the future of our province that we tackle this issue now. When we invest in our children, we are investing in our future.”
In addition to calling for a provincial poverty reduction plan, the 2017 report card makes 21 public policy recommendations that would help reduce the child poverty rate to 7% or less by 2020. Key recommendations to the provincial government include implementing the $10 a Day Child Care Plan; bringing the minimum wage up to $15 an hour and indexing it, significantly increasing income and disability assistance rates and extending the provincial child tax benefit for all children under 18. Additional provincial recommendations include enhanced supports for youth transitioning out of government care, removing financial barriers to obtaining a post-secondary education, paying living wages and substantially increased investments in affordable housing options for families, among others.
“The facts in this report remind of us how much work we have to do to live up to our obligations to children in this province,” said Scott Graham, associate executive director of SPARC BC. “The report also gives us a list of recommendations that together form a foundation for a robust poverty reduction plan with direct impact on the lives of BC’s poor children and their families.”
First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition is part of Campaign 2000, a national network that marks the anniversary every November of the 1989 pledge by the House of Commons to work to end child poverty by the year 2000. The 2017 BC Child Poverty Report Card was prepared by the First Call coalition with the help of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC).
Read the full report card here.