Income inequality has been growing for decades in Canada.
Now, a new study from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) suggests COVID-19 is dramatically widening the gap.
Since the pandemic started a year ago the country has lost some 640,000 jobs. CIBC economists say it is typical in a recession to see job market performance disproprotionately impact the lowest wage earners the most.
What they were not expecting to see, however, was the highest wage sector (greater than $41.73 per hour) actually gained 350,000 jobs.
Taking out those high income job gains, we have actually lost close to a million jobs, all in the lowest income sectors.
This should be of grave concern for all Canadians.
We pride ourselves in this country on being caring and compassionate. As such we have built a society with a robust social safety net.
Universal health care, welfare, employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan are just a few examples of the many programs designed to keep us all in some semblance of a reasonable standard of living.
But the greater the income gap becomes, the more the net erodes. The CIBC research also indicates this COVID-induced recession is disproportionately impacting the oldest and youngest among us.
Income inequality is the greatest challenge facing the country today and into the future.
Virtually ever societal ill can in some way be tied to poverty. Poor health outcomes, crime, social unrest, domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness, just to name a few, are all exacerbated by too much wealth being held by too few people.
It is imperative, both in the short-term and long-term, that we get a handle on this problem, not just for the good of the lowest income earners, but for the good of society as a whole.