A new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, titled “The Rich And The Rest of Us,” finds that the top 10% of Canadians are getting richer while the vast majority (80%) aren’t moving, and some of the bottom 10% are getting poorer. What’s worse, is that those 80% of Canadians in the middle are working harder (200 hours a year more compared to nine years ago) just to earn the same amount of money, while the 10% at the top are working less.
That’s an unsustainable situation if I’ve ever heard one.
In his new book The Upside Of Down, Thomas Homer-Dixon names the growing gap between the rich and the poor as one of the main threats facing our global society. He also points out how rapidly this problem is developing, explaining that “in 1950, there were about two poor people for every rich person on Earth; today there are about four; in 2025, there will be nearly six.
The good news in the report is that government policy can make a difference. “If they had to rely solely on market earnings,” the report says, “40% of Canadian families would have experienced significant losses in incomes compared to a generation ago â€” even though they are working more. Canadaâ€™s tax and transfer system stopped the freefall of incomes for almost half of the population raising children.” Government can also help with the problem of people who are working more for little to no gain by cracking down on unpaid overtime.
The report concludes with a very interesting statement:
An intractable growing gap between rich and poor, in good times and bad, oblivious to work effort, is akin to the slowly building impact of climate change â€” a clarion call for action which, ultimately, cannot be ignored.
And, like climate change, we will continue to see rising inequality until we understand our connectivity to each other and to our environment.