Skip to main content

The percentage of low-income earners increased to 13.5 per cent of the country’s population in 2013, from 12.8 per cent of the population in 2000.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The ranks of low-income earners in Canada have grown over the past decade, according to new government data.

The growth was seen among single people and families. But trends diverged for working-age men and women from 2000 to 2013. The percentage of men with low-income status grew during that period, while the percentage of women with low-income status shrank, according to Statistics Canada's latest income survey.

"We should not underestimate the extent of the gains that women have been making – this is both in wage rates and in their work intensity and work hours," Miles Corak, an economics professor with the University of Ottawa, said.

"Some fraction of men have been disproportionate losers in the labour market. They are not getting as much education as women, and they are not making as good an adjustment to the high-paying occupations in the service sector," he said.

The survey showed the percentage of men ages 18 to 64 in the low-income group grew to 12.5 per cent in 2013 from 11.4 per cent in 2000. For women in the same age bracket, the percentage shrank to 13.8 per cent in 2013 from 14.1 per cent in 2000.

Over all, the percentage of low-income earners increased to 13.5 per cent of the country's population in 2013. That compares with 12.8 per cent of the population in 2000.

The low-income rate increase comes over a period of relative economic prosperity in Canada. China's demand for raw materials fuelled a decade-long commodities boom. This helped bolster Canada's economy, especially in provinces rich in oil, potash, iron ore and other minerals.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland saw their median family after-tax incomes grow the most from 2000 to 2013.

In Alberta, the median after-tax income (for all sizes of households) jumped to $70,700 from $50,000. In Saskatchewan, income increased to $57,600 from $40,800. In Newfoundland, income rose to $53,200 from $39,100.

Meanwhile, the percentage of low-income households fell dramatically in the three resources-rich provinces.

"The resources boom … helped a lot of lower-skilled people," Mr. Corak said.

Across Canada and all sizes of households, the median after-tax income rose to $53,500 from $45,800. Ontario, a province not as reliant on natural resources, lagged the national average over this period.

The country's most populous province was also the only region that experienced a surge in the proportion of its population in the low-income bracket. That rose to 14.4 per cent of Ontario's population in 2013, compared with 10 per cent of its population in 2000.

The Statistics Canada survey goes up only to 2013 and therefore does not reflect the recent rout in commodity prices. Oil has lost more than half its value since last year. Prices for other raw materials, such as copper and metallurgical coal, have also plunged.

More than 30,000 natural-resources jobs have vanished this year, with Alberta bearing the brunt of the losses. The number of Albertans on employment insurance has jumped to its highest level since the global financial crisis.

Statscan's after-tax low-income measure counts people as low income if their household income is less than half of the median income of all households. The threshold varies by household size and location.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct