600,000 seniors in Canada live in poverty, including more than 1 in 4 single seniors according to new Statistics Canada report.

New measure of poverty reveals that twice as many seniors are struggling financially than previously thought. Income and structural supports urgently needed to address new awareness of financial insecurity in Canada: CARP

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 11, 2014

Toronto, ON: A report released this week from Statistics Canada shows that previous measures (LICO) used to determine low-income in Canada have under estimated the number of Canadians living in poverty and struggling with income insecurity. Using the new metric (LIM), the StatsCan report shows that the poverty rate is double the previous estimate – increasing from approximately 6% using the LICO to 12% using the LIM.  In real terms, using the new measure there are 600,000 seniors living in poverty now, compared to the previous estimate of 300,000.

CARP has called on finance ministers to use the occasion of the upcoming F/T/P finance ministers meeting to address poverty and structural sources for income insecurity. This new report from Statistics Canada highlights the urgency of action required to help Canadians struggling with poverty and financial insecurity.

CARP is calling on federal and provincial governments to fight and prevent seniors’ poverty with increased income supports, relaxed GIS rules and specific measures to mitigate the impact of the OAS changes. To help people help themselves, CARP is calling for help for older workers and elimination of mandatory RRIF withdrawals that put retirees at risk of outliving their savings.

“The new StatsCan numbers better reflect what we’ve been hearing from our members – much more people than previously thought are struggling to get by, especially single seniors and convey a greater urgency to acting immediately to keep people out of poverty. They can get started at this month’s F/T/P finance ministers meeting.

“CARP members are still waiting to hear what the finance ministers will do to help Canadians help themselves face their financial challenges in retirement. On their agenda should be measures to help people struggling to get by now – such as increasing income supports, and measures to remove or mitigate provisions that undermine their efforts, like RRIF withdrawals and increasing the OAS eligibility age.

“Of course, the finance ministers should also move forward on increasing the CPP or adopting the ORPP nationally, but we are given to understand that the federal government has not placed this on the agenda at all, it should be”, said Susan Eng, VP, Advocacy for CARP

The F/T/P finance ministers are slated to meet in mid December, possibly to discuss ways to spend the projected surplus. However, CARP polling suggests that older Canadians, at least, do not share this sense of optimism. Indeed there remains the need to address retirement insecurity and seniors’ poverty with immediate and structural changes to promote greater income equality and stability for all Canadians as they age.

The current state of the economy is a source anxiety for many Canadians, despite federal Minister of Finance Joe Oliver’s announcement of a budget surplus and today’s recommendation from the Parliamentary Budget Committee to the Finance Minister to stay the course in limiting budgetary spending.

In a recent CARP Poll™, 40 percent of CARP members say that the economy is leaving them behind as their personal financial standing has worsened recently. Only 3 percent report that their financial standing has improved due to the economy.

Inadequate retirement savings, precarious late-career employment, and inadequate structural supports combine to make it difficult for many Canadians to achieve and sustain income security before and during retirement.

New Statistics Canada data shows that 12 percent of seniors live in poverty, amounting to almost 600,000 people. Seniors living alone are particularly hard pressed finically, with more than 1 in 4 single seniors, most of whom are women, living in poverty.

Twelve million working Canadians do not have workplace pension plans and Canadians are increasingly unable to save sufficiently for their own retirement. Future generations of Canadians face the real prospect of substantial declines in standard of living in retirement if nothing is done now to help.

The upcoming meeting of finance ministers is an opportunity for the federal government to help older Canadians achieve financial security and prepare for retirement and to make structural changes for the future to promote greater income equality and stability for all Canadians as they age.

CARP is calling on the finance ministers to address the issues that would do the most to help struggling Canadians, including action on pension reform, income support, and stable employment. Specifically, CARP is calling on finance ministers to:

 1. Act on comprehensive pension reform, retirement security, and poverty reduction:

  • Work with provinces to create a national supplementary Universal Pension Plan (UPP) with reliable, predictable benefits and enact a modest CPP enhancement.
  • Eliminate mandatory minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs).
  • Replace OAS and GIS benefits that will be lost by the most financially vulnerable seniors due to increasing OAS eligibility age, as a first step to restoring the OAS eligibility age to 65.
  • Support single seniors, with particular regard to older women, with an equivalent to spousal allowance for single seniors in financial need and by making the Caregiver Tax Credit refundable.
  • Help low-income workers make pension contributions.
  • Consider a national Guaranteed Minimum Income to reduce poverty and replace multiple, complex, administratively expensive welfare programs.

 2.  Promote and create job opportunities and stable employment for older workers:

  • Remove barriers to continued employment: amend tax and pension systems to encourage continued employment, such as being able to work and receive benefits while still contributing to a pension plan; create employer incentives that encourage policies such as flexible hours.
  • Help unemployed older Canadians in job search: further minimize work disincentives associated with the GIS claw back provisions; amend Employment Insurance rules to give older workers more time to find suitable job opportunities.
  • Create job opportunities and promote the value of older workers:

o   Incent employers to hire and retain older workers;

o   Incent and/or fund employer-hosted job fairs and placement agencies that match unemployed older workers with relevant opportunities in their fields;

o   Incent innovative management programs such as caregiver leave/support, “emeritus” work, and flexible time and salary plans.

 3. Protect retail investors and their investments by working with provinces to create an investor protection enforcement agency, within a single national regulator:

  • Help unemployed older Canadians in job search: further minimize work disincentives associated with the GIS claw back provisions; amend Employment Insurance rules to give older workers more time to find suitable job opportunities.
  • Work with provinces to establish a dedicated national investor protection agency with:

o   Specialist knowledge to receive complaints, investigate crimes, and support prosecutions; a tribunal with

o   Authority to order restitution, undo transactions, provide mediation, and order compliance, with

o   Access provided to retail investors and a compensation fund to pay restitution.

LICO conveys the income level at which a family may be in impoverished circumstances because it has to spend a greater proportion of its income on necessities than the average family of similar size”, according to Stats Can. “The threshold is defined as the income below which a family is likely to spend 20 percentage points more of its income on food, shelter and clothing than the average family.”

The LIM is the most commonly used low income measure. Unlike the low income cut-offs, which are derived from an expenditure survey and then compared to an income survey, the LIMs are both derived and applied using a single income survey,” according to Stats Can. The LIM shows the percentage of people living on half (50%) of the Canadian median income of $70,000, taking into account household needs.

 

CARP is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to advocating for a New Vision of Aging for Canada, social change that will bring financial security, equitable access to health care and freedom from discrimination. CARP seeks to ensure that the marketplace serves the needs and expectations of our generation and provides value-added benefits, products and services to our members. Through our network of chapters across Canada, CARP is dedicated to building a sense of community and shared values among our members in support of CARP’s mission.

 

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Park   416.607.2471
Director, Communications
s.park@carp.ca

Michael Nicin   416.607.2479
Director of Policy
m.nicin@carp.ca

Anna Sotnykova  416.607.2475
Media & Communications Coordinator
a.sotnykova@carp.ca