Young Canadians need more social spending from governments: study

A group lobbying governments to focus more on younger Canadians says three to four times less is spent on people under age 45 than people over 65.

Generation Squeeze says focus needs to expand from needs of the aging

A new study says Canadian governments spend nearly three to four times less on social initiatives for people under age 45 than they do for those above age 65. Generation Squeeze is advocating for more per capita spending on younger Canadians to address this. (Catharine Tunney/CBC)

A group lobbying governments to focus more on younger Canadians says three to four times less is spent on people under age 45 than people over 65.

A study done by B.C.-based Generation Squeeze used Statistics Canada and government data on social spending – including health care, education and retirement – by the provinces and federal government to make their point that younger Canadians are underserved.

The study shows those governments spend an average of $33,321 to $40,152 per capita on social initiatives for Canadians over age 65 compared to $10,406 to $11,614 per capita on Canadians under age 45.

"The fact there is a large age gap in social spending in and of itself does not suggest intergenerational unfairness. We would expect spending per person age 65+ to be higher than spending for younger Canadians because it is a biological reality that we are more likely to become sick and require health care in our later decades," the report says.

But the study's authors said their analysis shows younger Canadians are facing higher levels of student debt, environmental concerns and high housing prices that negatively affect them, while older homeowners get more help.

"Given these trends, there is reason to query whether the current age distribution in government spending strikes the right balance for contemporary circumstances," the report said.

"Much of the public discourse about aging presumes the primary question should be how to sustain spending on retirees as their proportion of the population grows.... A second question is equally important: are we spending enough on younger Canadians?"

Generation Squeeze maintains it wants to address this gap by raising spending on younger Canadians by around $1,000 per capita while maintaining funding for older Canadians.

Generation Squeeze executive director Eric Swanson said in a news release that the study fills a need.

"Citizens have been flying blind on this topic until we published this research," he said.

"No government reports total social spending by age group, nor does Statistics Canada."

He said the hope is the study will help a task force on aging announced last year by Canada's premiers, as well as influence future provincial and federal budgets.

Generation Squeeze calls itself a partnership of organizations and citizens "determined that younger generations deserve a chance." It is funded by organizations such as the United Way and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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