Incomes not keeping pace with economic growth, report finds
Despite a roaring economy with no shortage of job opportunities, city residents should still reap an extra $1.2 billion from government assistance measures aimed at pushing them out of poverty, according to a new report by the Edmonton Social Planning Council.
The report, released yesterday, compiles statistics from various agencies comparing household incomes and economic activity to demonstrate that most city residents aren’t enjoying growing incomes at the same pace as Alberta’s growing wealth.
"Household earnings and incomes, particularly for low- and middle-income households, have essentially stood still over the past quarter-century," said John Kolkman, the council’s research and policy analyst and author of the report. "While the overall economic pie has grown significantly, a smaller share of that pie is going to employment earnings and personal incomes."
The report recommends the elimination of Alberta health-care premiums, changes to income tax levels, increased funding for out-of-school care programs, and a $2 per hour raise of the current $8 minimum wage.
Government spokeswoman Shannon Haggarty said the province has no plans to eliminate health-care premiums and already provides assistance to low-income earners who can’t afford to pay them.
"Alberta collects premiums because they are a clear and open reminder that health care has a cost — whether it’s paid for through premiums or through tax," she said.
While Statistics Canada figures tabled in the report reveal that there is actually a decline in the percentage of middle-class residents, Kolkman said it’s because the group is being split into either high-income brackets or poverty.
"When you break it down by percentages, a larger percentage is above the $100,000 threshold," he said. "But when you look at all of the other data in the report I still think it shows that household earnings and incomes overall have been standing still."
He hopes to send the report and its recommendations to several MLAs and federal politicians.