Toronto’s economy is firing on all cylinders: job growth is the strongest we’ve seen in nearly four decades and GDP is up. But according to a report out today, that wealth isn’t distributed equally—not by a long shot. And young people trying to get ahead continue to get left behind.
Canada’s most prosperous city is the most expensive place to live in Canada, and home to persistent income inequality, based on research compiled by Toronto Foundation, a community organization that handles and administers money for charities. The group compiles a self-funded snapshot of life in the city, through a wealth distribution lens, annually, titled “Toronto’s Vital Signs.”
Among the key findings: if you’re over the age of 35, white and born in this country, you’ve likely done better financially with each passing year—as much as 60 percent in income growth since 1980. But if you’re aged 34 and under, in Toronto, chances are you’ve seen no income growth (adjusted for inflation in both cases). Other groups that have also seen stagnant income are people of colour and newcomers, according to the report.
When you combine frozen incomes with the rising costs of housing, tuition, and transit, making the same amount of money but being able to afford less makes you poorer—just ask your bank account at the end of the month.
According to Statistics Canada, the average undergraduate tuition in Ontario increased 58 percent to $8,838 from $5,667 a decade ago. It costs more and it takes longer to pay it off as well. RBC research shows that a person making minimum wage in 1990 would have to work 293 hours to pay for the average tuition. Today, it would take 40 percent longer, or 505 hours (12.6 weeks assuming a 40-hour work week).
When it comes to jobs, not all jobs are created equal, and the city of Toronto is no exception. Recent grads who move to Toronto are dealing with an increase in precarious work. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of temporary jobs grew 4.7 times faster than permanent jobs. Temporary positions typically come with less benefits, which is another thing that has to be paid for out of pocket.
It’s a different story for the ultra rich in this city. The top one percent of earners—who make $224,200 or more—have seen their income grow an average of $99,400 or about 45 percent. The average person making $25,000 or less, among the bottom 50 percent of earners, has had their pre-tax income decline by $6,200 or 54 percent since 1982. This divergent pattern keeps playing out.
Young people are also faced with Toronto’s skyrocketing housing prices. For those who can afford to own, housing costs are growing four times faster than income. Renters don’t get a break either as rent costs are growing twice as fast as income has over the past decade.
According to the Toronto Foundation’s research, for working-aged adults, between 18 and 64, Toronto has become the place most likely for them to be living in poverty. It also has the second-highest child poverty rate in the country, affecting one in five kids under the age of 17.
The report’s findings probably aren’t all that surprising—millennials and Gen Z living and working in Toronto have felt the struggle to get ahead for years. It’s a reminder that the story of a city’s prosperity is distorted when you factor in income inequality. And even though overall poverty levels have decreased across the city in recent years, these numbers show that sharing in Toronto’s economic growth, really depends on who you are.
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