UNICEF has just given Canada a passing grade, mind you barely a pass, when it comes to the fight against child poverty. In a report released today it claims that 21% of Canadian children live in poverty, nothing to brag about, but at least this is lower than the 23% who were poor just before the recession started in 2008.
Interestingly, Statistics Canada also says child poverty is down, but that only 8.5% of kids are poor. However, at the same time it says child poverty is up, reaching almost 14%. And finally, if this is not confusing enough, it says that, yes, 14% of kids are poor, but this is down since 2008.
Up or down? One-in-five kids poor, or one-in-seven, or maybe even as few as only one-in-eleven?
The intention was much more radical, involving a major make-over of income support, and turning what was imagined as a net ensnarling many Americans behind a welfare wall, into a trampoline, a springboard that would incentivize work and allow them to ride a wave of prosperity to higher incomes that would lift their children out of poverty.
But this is hardly what is needed when times turn bad.
The only virtue of a trampoline when employment falls by more than 8 million, when the unemployment rate more than doubles, and when median incomes drop by over $10,000, is that it catches you on the way down.
American families needed a safety net during the Great Recession, and a report released by UNICEF on child poverty suggests, surprisingly enough, that is exactly what they got.
The rate of child poverty, in spite of all the macroeconomic turbulence of the last six years, has hardly budged. This is in large measure because of discretionary policy changes on the part of the Federal government that quickly turned the clock back to the welfare system of the 1980s.
Every month Statistics Canada releases employment and other labour market indicators. They are much used, much discussed, and arguably much misinterpreted. Here is a short FactBook about employment, using information from January 2005 to August 2014, clarifying some of the definitions, offering some suggestions on how to use the numbers, and highlighting some of the recent trends.
There are three major messages:
- If you want to be “really” certain that a month to month change in employment is not just statistical noise, then it has to be pretty large, say larger than 57,000
- Employment has barely kept up with population growth during the last five years; for young people this is not even the case, there being no growth at all
- The fraction of the working age population employed has yet to return to pre-recession levels, and has been falling during the past year, which seems to be due to a fall in the employment rate of women
On Wednesday evening, September 17th, I was at the University of Toronto as one of the panelists participating in the Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs to discuss “The prospects for this generation in an unequal world”. You can watch the full event, which also involved Jeffrey Arnett and Rod Haddow, by clicking on this link.
Here are two facts that I think are important for understanding the economic prospects of the young, and the public policy concerns that arise
It is a particular honour to have my paper, “Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility,” chosen for the 2014 Doug Purvis Memorial Prize. The prize is awarded annually by the Canadian Economics Association “to the authors of a highly significant, written contribution to Canadian economic policy.”
That is certainly honour enough, but I’m particularly grateful for another reason.