Falling Poverty Rates, Rising Employment among Poor, Reflect Social Policy Success: C.D. Howe Institute

    TORONTO, Oct. 18 /CNW/ - Anti-poverty initiatives over the last decade in
Canada have been successful, mainly by increasing employment among the poor,
according to a new study released by the C.D. Howe Institute. In Reducing
Poverty: What has Worked, and What Should Come Next, author John Richards
finds that policies that target employment for the poor, along with improved
labor market conditions, have been key to reducing poverty in Canada.
    Contrary to the dismal picture that some recent studies have painted, the
income security system is not broken, he says. Policies of the last decade got
much right. In 1996, nearly 16 percent of all Canadians fell below the Low
Income Cut Off, the traditional measure of poverty in Canada. In 2005, less
than 11 percent of Canadians did so. In the same period, the poverty rate
among children in female lone parent families fell from 56 to 33 percent;
among single men from 38 to 32 percent; among single women from 47 to
37 percent. Among these three vulnerable groups, there was a steady increase
in median incomes, primarily due to greater market earnings, not to increases
in net transfers.
    Using economic regression models, Professor Richards provides an
assessment of the impact on poverty of major shifts in welfare protocols in
Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia, where the changes have been most
dramatic. The introduction of new welfare protocols, entailing stricter
exercise by social workers in judging whether or not an individual is
employable, has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of welfare caseloads.
    Professor Richards concludes that the impact on employment among those at
high risk of incurring poverty should always be a consideration when assessing
proposed policy reforms, and policies that create greater incentives to enter
the workforce make sense.
    While the overall poverty situation is improving in Canada, there are
still pockets of poverty that appear resistant to policy interventions, he
notes. He identifies six dossiers that require attention: education among the
poor; Aboriginal poverty; the mentally ill and physically handicapped; those
living in ghetto-like urban neighbourhoods; high effective tax rates on the
"near poor"; and in-work benefits (such as earning supplements). Refined
interventions are required, not broad new transfer programs, he concludes.

    The study is available at http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/commentary_255.pdf.

    The press release is available at

For further information:

For further information: John Richards, Professor, Public Policy
Program, Simon Fraser University and Phillips Scholar in Social Policy at the
C.D. Howe Institute, (778) 782-5250; Yvan Guillemette, Senior Policy Analyst,
C.D. Howe Institute, (416) 865-1904, email cdhowe@cdhowe.org

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