British Columbia

Annual report shows 1 in 5 B.C. children still growing up in poverty

The First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society's 25th annual B.C. Child Poverty Report Card shows not much has changed for poor children and their families.

Gap between richest and poorest families widened dramatically in 2019, advocacy group says

Once again, data shows British Columbia has higher rates of children living in poverty than the national average. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

More than 150,000 children in British Columbia are living in impoverished households, according to the 2021 child poverty report card published by child and youth advocacy coalition First Call.

The annual report is based on 2019 data that once again reiterates what provincial policymakers have heard before — that one in five kids growing up in B.C. is doing so likely without the basic necessities, such as healthy food, that help children thrive.

One in five is the same statistic First Call published last year, the year before that and the year before that.

"Once again, our report finds one in five children in B.C. were living in poverty in 2019," the organization said in a statement released Wednesday alongside the 2021 report.

With 18 per cent of B.C. children living in poverty, the province is just above the national average of 17.7 per cent. 

Adrienne Montani, First Call's executive director, says the report also shows a "dramatic difference" between the average total incomes of the richest and poorest 10 per cent of B.C. families with children.

The organization divided B.C. families with children into deciles — 10 groups each making up 10 per cent of the population — to analyze the data.

It showed families in the highest income decile made 24 times more money than families in the lowest income decile. The difference nationally is 20.

The disparity between single-parent families with the most money and those with the least in B.C. was the highest in the country, with the average income for the top 10 per cent of single-parent families at 54 times that of struggling single parents in the lowest decile.

The poverty rate for B.C. children in single-parent families overall was 49 per cent.

B.C.'s child poverty rate did decrease slightly between 2018 and 2019 for both children in couple families (from 10.2 per cent  to 9.7 per cent ) and children in single-parent families (from 50.4 per cent to 49 per cent). But B.C.'s child poverty rates were still higher than Canada's for children in both these family types in 2019.

First Call also found the regional districts most likely to have higher rates of children living below the poverty line were in coastal areas, particularly along the north and central coast.

The report makes 22 recommendations to all three levels of government to give poor children in the province a better chance at success.

They include making sure all workers in B.C. are paid at least minimum wage and creating a wage commission to advise the provincial government; providing workers with paid sick leave; raising welfare income and assistance for families of children with disabilities; and cutting red tape for benefits available to grandparents raising children.

A complete list of recommendations is available beginning on page 34 of the report.

The B.C. government is expected to release details of its plan for a permanent paid sick leave program Wednesday afternoon.