A majority of Canadians think the income gap has grown in the last five years and that the country has become a “less fair” society, a new national survey finds.
The survey, conducted for the Toronto Star by York University’s Institute for Social Research, found that 78 per cent of Canadians believe the income gap has grown, 70 per cent think it has made Canada less fair, 55 per cent are troubled about their financial security, while 67 per cent are worried about their children’s financial future.
Despite identifiers such as age, education, income, region of the country or political party loyalties, at least 70 per cent of every group examined in the survey thinks the income gap in Canada has grown larger.
“People think the income gap has gotten worse. What was surprising to me was the universality of this belief. Younger people, older, higher levels of education, lower, men and women. The fact is, a wide cross-section of Canadian society believes that the income gap has gotten bigger, or much bigger in the last five years,” survey author David Northrup said in an interview.
“Usually we see a lot more variation in opinion in social ideas like this,” added Northrup, director of survey research at York who co-authored the report with York professor Lesley Jacobs.
“One of the fundamental bedrocks of being a Canadian is thinking we have a fair society. This survey is going against that grain.”
When it came to explaining the income gap, 70 per cent of respondents said there just aren’t enough jobs that pay a decent wage, while 60 per cent said the flight of jobs to countries that pay low wages is a major reason for the expanding income gap. About two-thirds of Canadians, 65 per cent, blamed “increasing salaries to business leaders” as a major reason for the widening income gap.
Concern about the growing disparities in income is not just an Ontario or Canadian phenomenon, but a western world phenomenon, Northrup said.
“There was some evidence things were shrinking in the 1960s. But there’s pretty good evidence now that the gap is widening again, and I think it has come on people’s radars,” he added.
There’s been an increase in discussion around the subject of income inequality, tracing back most recently to the financial meltdown in the United States in 2008, which spawned the massive “occupy” street protests, and the identification of a new subgroup — the wealthiest 1 per cent, or the “one percenters.”
Politicians have seized on the issue of income inequality. “Precarious employment” — the decline in firm, full-time jobs with good benefits and the increase in part-time, lower paying work — has also generated much public discussion. A study last year by McMaster University and the United Way Toronto, found 50 per cent of Ontario workers at all income levels are engaged in precarious work.
The declining number of good jobs, coupled with higher pay at the top end of relatively few jobs left survey respondents with the impression of “diminishing opportunity, as opposed to greater opportunity for social mobility,” Jacobs said.
The York study found that 30 per cent of Canadians reported they lost or changed jobs in the past five years.
To address some of the income disparity in Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne last month announced a boost to the province’s minimum wage from $10.25 — where it had been locked for four years — to $11, effective June 1.
According to the York survey, 75 per cent of Canadians believe that increasing the minimum wage will reduce the income gap.
The study also found that 80 per cent of Canadians think the federal and provincial governments can “do a lot” or something to help reduce income inequality.
The survey found that a smaller number, 28 per cent, believe labour unions can do a lot to reduce inequality.
A total of 30 per cent of respondents said immigrants were the cause of the widening income gap.
The random telephone survey questioned 1,898 people across the country, Jan. 3 to 22. The overall study has a sample error of 2.2 per cent.”
Toronto Star article. read more here