An anti-poverty group says one in seven children in B.C. is living in poverty and the recession will likely make things worse.
In releasing its annual report Wednesday, the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition said while the child poverty rate dropped in 2008, the recession was also starting, and it's almost certain to produce higher poverty figures for 2009 and 2010.
The group said the child poverty rate in B.C. in 2008 was 14.5%, working out to 121,000 children, while the rate for children under the age of six is even higher, at 19.6%, or one in five young children.
Coalition provincial co-ordinator Adrienne Montani says one of the first things the government should do is raise the minimum wage, which has been eight dollars an hour since 2001.
"We'd like to see income go up and that means the minimum wage should go up to $11 an hour over a fairly short period of time, like the next 18 months," she said.
Children's Minister Mary Polak said the provincial government has been working to reduce child poverty by improving the economy.
"We now have the third highest average hourly wage in Canada at $23 an hour," she said. "We have the lowest youth unemployment in British Columbia's history and we have some of the lowest unemployment rates across all populations in all of North America."
But the coalition said the province and the federal government must do more in order to reduce the child poverty rate in B.C. to seven per cent or less by 2020.
In addition to hiking the minimum wage, it wants increases in welfare rates and child tax benefits, along with enhanced employment insurance benefits and better access to child care and post-secondary education.
The coalition didn't spare the opposition NDP from criticism, saying while the party has called for the government to introduce a poverty reduction plan with targets and timelines, it hasn't put forward any details of its own plan.