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Working Poverty Report

We are often told that the solution to poverty is for the poor to “get a job” or for various sectors to create more jobs. But the reality is that having a job is not a guaranteed path out of poverty.

The Working Poverty Report revealed that there are over 100,000 people living across the region who are working but not earning enough to escape poverty.


Who are the working poor?

Working Poverty Stereotype Vs Reality

In Metro Vancouver in 2012:

  • just over half (54 per cent) of the working poor were married or living common law
  • 42 per cent had dependent children (32 per cent were living in couple families with children and 9 per cent were single parents)
  • one in four (24 per cent) was between the ages of 18 and 29
  • the majority (61 per cent) were between the ages of 30 and 54, or what economists consider prime working age
  • 9 per cent received employment insurance (EI) benefits at some point during the year.


Working poverty is defined as an individual who is, among other factors,between the ages of 18 and 64, lives in a family with after-tax income below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Measure (LIM), and is not a student. This definition comes from the Metcalf Foundation whose data is the jumping off point for the¬†Working Poverty Report.


Working poverty is a growing problem for all Metro Vancouver municipalities

Metro Vancouver has the 2nd highest working poverty rate among large cities in Canada (8.7%), only slightly lower than Greater Toronto (9.1%). Across Canada, more than 1 million people are working poor.

In 2012, the latest year for which we have data available, working poverty rates were highest in Richmond (10.5%), Vancouver (10%), Burnaby (9.4%), Surrey (9.1%), North Vancouver (8.4%) and Coquitlam (8.1%). A number of smaller municipalities like Bowen Island and North Vancouver also have high levels of working poverty.

Working Poverty Rate Municipality

Working poverty can be eliminated

The report makes a number of policy recommendations including:

  • increase the minimum wage
  • strengthen employment standards
  • increase access to safe, affordable housing
  • create a high quality, public child care program
  • make training and education more accessible to low-income earners
  • reform employment insurance
  • enhance the Working Income Tax Benefit
  • make all levels of government living wage employers.


Reducing poverty will help not just those who are poor. Better public services and income supports enhance quality of life for all British Columbians and build more inclusive, vibrant and healthy communities – communities we can all be proud to live in.


To download the full report click here.

The executive summary can be downloaded here.


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