More than one-quarter of Canadians say they face economic hardship, according to a new survey by the Angus Reid Institute.
The poll, released Tuesday, surveyed 2,542 Canadian adults and examined the state of poverty in Canada based on “lived experiences” rather than income levels alone. The study asked respondents a series of 12 questions about money-related scenarios and their day-to-day economic realities.
Many Canadians have difficulty affording basic needs, the survey found, while dental care topped the list of issues that Canadians struggle with most with 21 per cent saying they can’t afford it.
In addition, 18 per cent — or nearly one-in-six — respondents said they have to forego quality groceries and opt for what they can afford, while nine per cent of respondents said they even have to borrow money for essential expenses like groceries or transportation.
Meanwhile, 17 per cent of respondents said they’re not able to buy new clothes when they need them and 14 per cent said they live in a home that doesn’t meet their needs because the space is too small or too far from work or school.
“We’re not talking about big luxuries here,” Shachi Kurl, executive director at Angus Reid, said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.
“This isn’t millennials who are eating too much avocado toast, or people who are spending too much on their phone or on gym memberships. No, we asked a really specific set of questions about what I think is a fairly agreed-to set of necessities.”
The study also reveals that most Canadians feel their communities are struggling, with 52 per cent believing that poverty has increased where they live.
Indeed, many aren’t hopeful that things will get better: 43 per cent said they believe their children’s generation will be worse off than themselves, versus 32 per cent who said they believe their children will be better off.
“When people are already in a stressful situation, they can’t necessarily see things getting better in the next generation,” Kurl said.
“But even for those at the top of spectrum financially, I think they also recognize that part of their comfort came from the fact that they — you see more older people and more baby boomers in this category — were able to leverage lower education costs, easier access to buying into the housing market, just lower cost of living in general and less of a gap between what they were earning and those costs.”
In terms of where Canadians are placing the blame for their financial struggles, 38 per cent, or nearly four-in-ten Canadians, identified low wages as a main cause. The same number of respondents attributed their economic hardships to high housing costs.
Based on the results of its questions, Angus Reid sorted the respondents into four broad categories: those who are “struggling” (16 per cent of the total number of respondents), “on the edge” (11 per cent), “recently comfortable” (36 per cent), and “always comfortable” (37 per cent).
Canadians struggling the most with economic hardship (the “struggling” group) have much in common with Canadians who are identified as “poor” based on income alone, Angus Reid said. Those in this group tend to include a disproportionate number of Indigenous people, people of colour, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, women and people with only a high-school education or less, the survey said.