United Way Lower Mainland Blog: Working hard but staying poor

Originally Published by the United Way Lower Mainland

Labour Day in Canada originated with a Toronto printer’s strike in 1872. Printers were fighting for a 9-hour workday in an age when many people were working 12 hours a day.

Fast forward to today and we’ve made significant gains in working hours, wages, health benefits, and pension security. But families are struggling to make ends meet here in B.C.

A report released September 1 by BC’s Provincial Health Services Authority and the University of Toronto shows that half a million people are going hungry in British Columbia. The numbers are staggering. For families with children, one in six households are going hungry. In order to eat healthy, a family of four needs to spend $997 on food per month in the Vancouver Coastal health district. That’s based on 2012 figures. Yet food costs are rising as are housing costs and rents.

So how does a family make ends meet? They don’t.

What used to lift families out of poverty – getting a job – isn’t working either. The reality is that here in the Lower Mainland, a job is no longer a guaranteed path out of poverty, especially when you factor in our increasingly unaffordable housing market.

Our Working Poverty in Metro Vancouver co-published with the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives revealed that over 100,000 people in Metro Vancouver are working but are living below the poverty line. Single parents are the most likely to experience working poverty.

The burden of poverty is profound on families and children. Not only does it get in the way of meeting basic human needs – like access to nutritious food – it also marginalizes children and families. Families living in poverty who are food insecure are more likely to report poorer health in general and higher rates of anxiety and depression.

There is no quick fix. The Working Poverty report recommends several strategies to address working poverty: a $15 minimum wage, stronger employment standards, more affordable housing, a $10/day child care program and better access to education and training for low-income earners.

United Way and Labour have worked together to change lives for the better for more than 30 years. We believe that everyone who lives here should have access to opportunities to build a better life for themselves.

In order for people to access opportunity, we need to tackle poverty. We all need to work together to develop a comprehensive poverty reduction plan for B.C.

When we work together, amazing things are possible.