Economic analysis

Are Canadians better off than before the financial crisis?

We earn more and still love our banks, but poverty is on the rise and so is suicide
A homeless woman lies on a sidewalk using an empty coffee cup to collect spare change from passers-by in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia June 29, 2007. REUTERS/Andy Clark (CANADA)

For anyone who thinks Canada survived the global economic meltdown unscathed and that most of us are better off than we were a few years ago comes a new study released today from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on the state of Canadian society since the financial crisis began in 2007. Overall, we’ve done better than many other advanced economies, although there are some troubling signs that we’re heading in the wrong direction:

First, here are sobering statistics:

The unemployment rate remains higher now than it was before the global financial crisis began:


Poverty rose, particularly among young people and the elderly (child poverty actually fell). The share of Canadians living in poverty is now higher than the average in Europe, or across the OECD as a whole. A smaller percentage of Canadians than our American counterparts now live in poverty, but poverty rose faster here than it did south of the border:


The share of people who say they can’t afford food jumped from 8.2 per cent to 11.5 per cent:


The fertility rate dropped, though it was a relatively modest drop:


Suicide rates rose slightly, albeit from near-record lows in 2007:



Now, the good news:

We’re earning slightly more than we did seven years ago. Adjusted for inflation and converted into U.S. dollars, the average income rose 4.5 per cent, to the equivalent of $31,900 a year. The income of the poorest 10 per cent (who earn the equivalent of $8,900 U.S. a year) also increased, though at 2.3 per cent it was about half the gains of the average Canadian.

Canada has the third-highest share of immigrants of any country in the study. The vast majority of Canadians—94 per cent—say their country is a good place for immigrants, more than any other country by far. We’re healthier and we live longer, with an average life expectancy of 88 years, compared to an average of 81.

The last two charts might surprise many. The reputations of both governments and financial institutions have taken a beating in the aftermath of the crisis. But this is far less so in Canada.

We really, really love our banks:


And our faith in government is still relatively high compared to other countries, but it has dropped significantly in recent years: