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11.4 percent Canadians live below poverty line

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : About 11.4 per cent Canadians live below the poverty line, according to the latest census.Releasing its 2006 census figures on income and earnings Thursday, Statistics Canada put the number of the poor at 3.5 million in a nation of 33.3 million people.

But the shocking part is that the worst victims of the poverty in this nation that is considered part of the rich, industrialized world are children.

The census says about 1.2 million Canadian children – about 18 per cent – live in families earning below-poverty incomes. Among pre-school kids, the poverty rate is 19.3 per cent, while the figures for school-age kids stand at 17 per cent. Most of the poor kids come from families with single mothers as the only bread earner.

Shockingly, these figures have not changed since 1989 when the nation’s parliament made a pledge to eradicate child poverty in Canada by 2000.

On the other hand, poverty has increased among new immigrants, aboriginals and single mothers since 1980, the census says. In fact, a new immigrant today earns a lot less than his Canadian-born counterpart than he did in 1980.

The report says while in 1980 a new immigrant earned about 85 cents against one dollar by his Canadian-born counterpart, today he earns just 63 cents against one dollar by his native-born counterpart.

Worse still, a new immigrant woman today earns just 56 cents against one dollar by her Canadian-born counterpart.

Defining poverty in the Canadian context, the census says a family of four in a city like Toronto is considered to be below the poverty line if its annual income is less than $38,610.

The census also shows that median incomes have also hovered around $41,000 since 1980. However, the number of high earners has almost doubled from 3.4 per cent in 1980 to 6.5 per cent in 2006.

A person is considered to be a high earner if his or her income is $100,000 or above. As per the 2006 census, there are about 600,000 high earners in Canada.