It can be confusing to figure out what the poverty line is in BC because Canada has no official definition of poverty. There are three main measures of poverty in Canada but the most common measure is the Low Income Measure (LIM). LIM is a fixed percentage (50%) of median adjusted household income, where "adjusted" refers to the household size or the number of members in a household.
Chart: 2017 Child Poverty Report Card, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition
Getting above the poverty line still does not leave families with economic security. For example, the median rent for a three bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver for 2014 would eat up 44% of the annual income of a two-parent, two-child family earning $36,426 (2015 LIM).
The method we use to calculate the living wage sets a higher standard. The living wage is a reflection of expenses that family faces in their region.
Poor families face impossible choices: buy food or heat the house, fill a prescription or pay the rent. But child poverty is not just an issue for low-wage families and their children.
When it comes to the increase in child-poverty rates in BC, including the weakening of local economics and the increased costs for public services, we all pay a price, through:
Increased health care costs
Low-income families are not only more vulnerable to poor health than those earning a living wage, they use more health-care resources because illness can make it harder to get out of poverty. Poverty can lead to sickness because of inadequate housing, poor nutrition, and less access to preventative health care. In fact, poverty costs British Columbians $1.2 to $3.8 billion a year in increased health costs, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and BC Healthy Living Alliance.
Increased demands and pressures on our education system
Studies show that children who arrive hungry to school, or whose parents work two to three jobs to make ends meet, struggle academically. Also, teenagers in low-income families are at increased risk of quitting school before graduating Grade 12 – often to supplement their family’s income. As unqualified workers, these teens (and their future families) are also likely to continue living in poverty, and their increasing numbers pose serious implications for the province’s global economic competitiveness and fiscal sustainability.
Lost tax revenue and reduced economic activity
It is well established that lower-income households spend more of their money locally than those in higher-income brackets. And when workers buy goods and services in their local communities, it benefits neighbourhood businesses, many of which are small businesses. (This fact sheet provides details on the ever-increasing role the low-wage sector is playing in BC’s economy.)