According to a new report released by the Edmonton Social Planning Council, one in eight Edmontonians are currently living in poverty.
The report, ‘A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton,’ describes the city as young and diverse, but one where several groups are disproportionately lacking in prosperity despite a steadily increasing job market.
Alberta currently has the highest rate of working poverty of any Canadian province.
According to the report, one in five children under 18 live in poverty. That number rises to one in three in single-parent families.
The report also found that the poverty rate is twice as high among Aboriginal peoples compared to non-Aboriginals.
And while recent immigrants to Canada showed comparable employment rates to people born in Canada, their income was significantly lower.
Speaking Wednesday, Mayor Don Iveson said those numbers are unacceptable.
“There’s an extraordinary over representation of indigenous people in our homeless numbers and in the poverty numbers — particularly among children — and this should be of concern to all Canadians,” he said.
“I know that we can do better. I know that a society as wealthy as ours, regardless of oil prices, can include more people … in the prosperity that we talk about.”
According to the council, 248,400 jobs were created in Edmonton between 2000 and 2014. However, the report states that “a significant proportion” of full-time workers remain below the poverty line.
In particular, many people working in retail, accommodation, food services, janitorial services, private security and personal care are having a hard time making comfortable wages, it says.
The council also notes that provincial and federal support to those living in poverty has gone down since 2000.
“Working poverty must be more effectively addressed,” the report reads. “Many Edmontonians work full-time for the entire year yet earn an income below the poverty line.”
The lack of affordable housing is also contributing to the problem, says the group.
Edmonton is second only to Calgary in terms of having the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country, and only Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary have higher average rents.
While the social planning council’s report states that provincial and federal support is necessary to reduce poverty in Edmonton, it makes three recommendations for steps that could be instigated at a local level immediately:
- Implement a discounted-fare transit pass for low-income Edmontonians
- Ensure land, housing and schools are planned and reserved in new Edmonton neighbourhoods
- Implement living wage for all city-contracted workers
Iveson promised the city’s task force on poverty elimination would use the data and recommendations prepared by the social planning council as it works to prepare its own recommendations to be released in the fall.
“Our whole council has committed ourselves to this vigorous discussion about what it will take to end poverty in our city in a generation,” he said.
Those recommendations will apply to municipal, provincial and federal governments, as well as to the business community, he said.
Iveson said the province currently spends $7 to $9 billion annually managing poverty.