Oct 28, 2019
'The issue is income': CIBC's Tal shrugs off Canadian debt fears, points to wage woes
'Lost four decades' for Canadian real disposable income growth: CIBC
Those sounding the alarm over Canadians’ personal debt levels should instead focus on the money that’s flowing into the nation’s households, according to CIBC Capital Markets deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal.
“I don’t think that the issue in Canada – especially now, (and) over the past five, seven years – is debt. The issue is income,” Tal told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Monday.
“The debt-to-income ratio is rising not because of the fact that debt is rising to the sky, but because of the fact that income is not rising fast enough.”
Tal’s comments came the same day insolvency firm MNP released its latest survey on Canadian indebtedness, which showed 48 per cent of respondents said they have less than $200 remaining at the end of the month after covering living expenses and debt payments.
A separate report authored by Tal on Monday dug deeper into the nature of Canadian income trends and the types of jobs that are up for grabs.
It posits that Canada’s ability to manage its debt has been hampered by the lack of growth in both wages and disposable income compared to the U.S.
“It goes back to why [employers] are not raising wages, because they can,” Tal told BNN Bloomberg.
“If you have a situation in which we restructure the labour market in a way that it’s more optimal in terms of the mismatch in the labour market, then [employers] will be forced to raise wages and the cycle will come back to normal.”
Compared to the U.S., Canadians are also falling behind when it comes to other sources of income.
"Zooming in on gross personal income, just under one half of the widening in the gap is due to lower growth in rental and interest/dividend income in Canada, as well as faster growth in government transfers in the U.S." Tal wrote in the report.
As a result of part-time and self-employment, Tal said, wages are only consistently rising for certain types of jobs.
“If you’re a computer engineer, your wages are rising. But if you’re a cashier, your wages are not rising,” Tal told BNN Bloomberg.
“That’s more or less where we are.”