Income Inequality Canada: Rich Taking Ever Larger Share Of The Pie, But Is The Trend Fizzling?

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INCOME INEQUALITY CANADA ONE PER CENT
The gap between Canada’s wealthiest earners and everyone else has been growing steadily over the past three decades, Statistics Canada says in a new report, but the most recent data suggests the problem may have peaked and is reversing itself. (Shutterstock photo) | Shutterstock

The gap between Canada’s wealthiest earners and everyone else has been growing steadily over the past three decades, Statistics Canada says in a new report, but the most recent data suggests the problem may have peaked and is reversing itself.

According to StatsCan’s new report on income trends among top earners, the share of income earned by Canada’s top one per cent jumped to 12.1 per cent in 2006, from 7 per cent in the early 1980s.

But it fell to 10.6 per cent in 2010, suggesting the trend has either stalled or reversed itself, at least for the time being.

At the same time, an analysis of the data from the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds that the earnings of a vast majority of people living in Canada's three largest cities actually saw a decline during the same three-decade period.

The earnings gap between the one per cent and everyone else grew substantially over the past three decades. In 1982, the median income of the top one per cent was seven times higher than the median income for the bottom 99 per cent; by 2010, the median income for the top one per cent was ten times higher as for everyone else, StatsCan reported.

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The report found those in the top one per cent are now more likely to stay there. In 1982, 67 per cent of those at the top were still at the top a year later. By 2010, that number had risen to 72 per cent.

It also found women have made headway breaking in to the top earnings group. The proportion of female earners in the top percentile nearly doubled between 1982 and 2010, to 21 per cent of all earners from 11 per cent.

“No province has managed to become more equal since 1980,” David Macdonald, senior economist at the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), said in a statement mailed to the press. “Instead, all provinces have become more unequal, although to varying degrees.”

The CCPA noted that the bottom 90 per cent of earners in Canada's three largest metro areas — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — make less money today, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1982.

"They’ve seen drops in income of $4,300, $1,900, and $224, respectively. The top 1% in those cities saw pay increases of $189,000, $297,000, and $162,000, respectively," the CCPA stated.

The CCPA said the data showed Alberta to be the most unequal province in Canada, and Calgary the most unequal city. Prince Edward Island was the most equal province, the CCPA said.