Poverty more difficult in the regions than in the city

It costs much more to escape poverty in a small village than in the large urban centers of Quebec.

If it takes at least $32,300 per year for a single person — and $71,200 for a family of four — to access “a dignified standard of living without poverty” in Montreal, these “viable income” thresholds are respectively $38,600 and $78,600 in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and $45,500 and $95,200 in Schefferville, reports the Institute for Socioeconomic Research and Information (IRIS) in a study which must be revealed on Thursday.

This gap is due in particular to the obligation to have a car and the higher cost of food in the region, expenses that counter the advantage of (generally) cheaper housing than in the city.

The IRIS concept of “sustainable income” goes further than the traditional market basket measure, the official measure of poverty in Canada, which is equivalent to the cost of a basket of goods and services corresponding to a standard of living modest. This involves estimating sufficient income to meet expanded basic needs and providing room for maneuver to improve one’s situation. This measure is intended to be “a necessary, credible and complementary benchmark to the measurement of the consumption basket for the analysis of the poverty situation in the income continuum”, recalls the author of the study, sociologist Guillaume Tremblay-Boily. .

IRIS has been calculating the viable income threshold in Quebec’s main urban centers since 2017, but this is the first time that it has extended its gaze to smaller, more remote communities. For this first, we studied the case of 33 localities located in seven territories of Quebec, including three in Montérégie, three MRCs in the Côte-Nord, as well as the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region.

In almost all cases, the viable income threshold turns out to be higher in the regions than in large urban centers, both for single people and for single-parent families with a child in CPE and families of two adults and two children in CPE. CPE.

This comes in particular from the cost of food, in particular because products must be transported over greater distances, but also because we have less access to large-scale grocery stores and the discounts offered by their house brands and their more large formats. This also comes from the fact that distances and the absence of public transport often mean that you have to do almost everything by car.

It is true that housing costs are generally lower in the regions than in the mainland, but upward pressure is now observed almost everywhere, with a vacancy rate approaching 0% in certain regions, including the Gaspésie.

A question of income too

On the other hand, several localities in remote regions have a high proportion of retirees and seasonal workers, whose incomes are generally more modest, observes IRIS. “These factors combine to create situations where the incomes of residents of these communities are lower while the cost of living is higher. »

This has the consequence that, “in 25 of the 33 localities studied, more than half of the people who live alone do not achieve a viable income. [À l’inverse]in almost all localities, the median income of single-parent families and couples with children is above the viable income, but sometimes by very little.

These differences could be due to social transfers from governments, which turn out to be more generous for low-income families with young children, argued Guillaume Tremblay-Boily in a telephone interview with Duty.

In this context, an improvement in the situation can come as much through revenues as through costs, concludes IRIS. In the first case, we could, for example, increase wages, social assistance benefits, family allowances and employment insurance benefits for seasonal workers. In the second case, there would be reason to better regulate rent increases, create more social housing, set up a universal school feeding program or encourage the establishment of public transport services.

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