Financial Insecurity among older Ontarians: CARP Pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Executive Summary

Financial insecurity continues to concern too many older Canadians. Many may never recover from the losses suffered during the worst of the recent downturn.

Depending on how poverty among Canadians over 65 is measured, the estimates range from 200,000 to 300,000 people. The Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), which uses median household income to determine the poverty line, estimates that 4.4% of Canadians over 65 – almost 200,000 individuals – live in poverty.

Using the Low-income Cut-off (LICO) as a measure of poverty, approximately 7% of Canadians over 65 are living in poverty, or 300,000 individuals – almost equal to the entire population of Torontonians over the age of 65.

After decades of decline in the incidence of poverty among the 65-plus, the percentage of seniors living near or in poverty rose by 25% from 2007 to 2008. The improvement in poverty rates has flattened due to the maturing of CPP benefits.

Countless more may not fall below the official poverty line, but live in constant financial insecurity nevertheless. A more instructive measure of financial insecurity is the 1.6 million Canadians who receive GIS, or nearly 35% of all Canadians over 65.

The incidence of financial insecurity is segmented. The risk of poverty is much higher among seniors living alone versus those living in couples, and greater among women and visible minorities.

Further, the degree of poverty is under-appreciated. After-tax LICO for 2009 was $12,050 for a single person living in a rural community and $18,421 for a person in a city with a population of 500,000 or more. But it would be a mistake to think that the 300,000 people living under LICO all have these levels of income. In fact, the average is closer to $15,000 and the worst off are living on $3,600 to $9,500.

If nothing is done to address financial insecurity among seniors, then by 2031 there could be well over 600,000 seniors in Canada officially living in poverty and millions more in financial insecurity.

In Ontario, there are almost 100,000 low-income seniors according to LICO statistics. The rate of poverty amongst women age 65-plus is 7.25% while the prevalence of poverty amongst men in Ontario is 4.45%.

Ontario is home to 1.7 million people receiving Old Age Security (OAS). Of that group over 475,000 Ontarians receive Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits. Eligibility for GIS is based on a maximum income, other than OAS, of $15,888 per year for an unattached person over 65 and $20,976 for a married couple. Individuals living just above the income thresholds are ineligible for the GIS benefits.

CAREGIVING DUTIES & FINANCIAL INSECURITY

Too many Canadians also struggle with caregiving duties that often remove them from them from the labour force, causing both immediate and long-term financial distress. According to a 2008 Statistics Canada report, in 2007, about 2.7 million Canadians aged 45 and over, or approximately one-fifth of the total in this age group, provided some form of unpaid care to people 65 years of age or older who had long-term health problems. These individuals provided vital care, saving the public healthcare system billions of dollars, often at great personal expense.

Who We Are

CARP is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization with over 300,000 members across the country. CARP is committed to advocating for social change that will enhance the quality of life for all Canadians as we age. Financial security is a principal concern for our members and our advocacy. These are our recommendations to help older Canadians weather the economic storm.

Summary of Recommendations

Financial Security

ENSURING FINANCIAL SECURITY AMONG OLDER ONTARIANS

1. Increase the level of Guaranteed Annual Income System [GAINS] payments from its current level of $83 per month; and
2. Work with the other provinces and federal government to increase substantially the levels of Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments to bring the guaranteed income from all levels of government to at least the Low Income Cut Offs [LICO]
3. Ensure that pension reform initiatives specifically accommodate the needs of the low-wage sector
4. Provide low-income, single, divorced, or widowed people between the ages of 60 and 64 with supplementary income equivalent to the spousal allowance
5. Work with the Federal government and other provinces to provide adequate and officially recognized ‘drop-out’ years from CPP calculations to people who undertake unpaid caregiving duties for older loved ones.

Health and Well-Being

SUPPORT FOR FAMILY CAREGIVERS

6. Develop a comprehensive Family Caregiver Strategy and work with the federal government and other provinces to develop a National Family Caregiver Strategy to support the millions of Canadians who are providing informal care to older loved ones to provide family caregivers with
a. financial support,
b. workplace protection; and
c. Integration with the formal health care system, including training and respite care

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