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The Forgotten Poor

Posted on December 18, 2020
By Elle Richards

Lone personIf there is one group that tends to go unnoticed in poverty and policy, it is the single working-age person. How can it be acceptable for an individual to want to work, be part of the working population, actively contributing to society, the economy, and still not be able to meet basic needs? Working age singles are more likely to be living in deep poverty, so why are they so overlooked in poverty reduction plans?


Two groups have benefitted by enhanced social policies over the years – families with children and seniors, for which Canada has made great strides in supporting poverty reduction. Yet, roughly half of those experiencing deep poverty are individuals living alone. Working age singles are three times as likely to be living in deep poverty and are more economically vulnerable as policy reform has lagged behind here. The income supports for employable singles by way of social assistance, tax credits and other supplementary benefits are extremely low relative to minimum wage earning or supports for other household types. And singles earning minimum wage do not fare well either. The working age population living in deep poverty is complex and has diverse representation including across gender, race, age and education. Thus, responses require more research into a deeper understanding of this group and challenges with comprehensive policy supports needing to be explored.


The continued rise in Canada's working poor reveals a labour divide of which the pandemic has exposed even more. A new report released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) highlights system gaps. Putting People Living in Deep Poverty on the Canadian Radar and the accompanying podcast hears Colin Busby and Sheri Torjman discuss policy and a new program ‘The Social Safety Net for Working Age Adults’. This program focuses on researching a range of policies and programs to
promote economic opportunity, income security and inclusion for Canadian workers.


The speakers urge continuing to keep this issue alive and on the agenda at all levels so that important progress can be made.


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Poverty Reduction, Cities Reducing Poverty, Elle Richards

Elle Richards

By Elle Richards

Elle has joined the Vibrant Communities team as Manager of Cities, Cities Reducing Poverty. Her experience spans corporate, academic, health and community environments, and working on national, regional and local programs of work, both strategically and operationally. In recent years, Elle has focused her work around issues of food security, poverty and inequalities in health.

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