Despite having one of the highest standards of living among all the developed nations, and despite being voted numerous times in recent years by the United Nations as the best country in the world in which to live, experts agree that poverty is prevalent in Canada today. Unfortunately, that is more or less where the agreement ends. Exactly how prevalent and how serious a problem poverty is in Canada is an open question that has been hotly debated for the last 10 years.
There have been two times in the past 300 years when economic structural changes have occurred in the world that have been so massive and so far-reaching, that the impact on societies has been nothing short of monumental.
The first time was in the Industrial Revolution which began in the early 1700s and caused massive societal transformations, especially in the western world, changing life from agrarian-based societies to industrial-based societies. The second time was in the early 1980s with the beginning of the “Information Revolution.” Today, a rapid, world-wide, economic transformation is taking place that is changing our societies from industrial-based societies to information-based societies, the 3rd wave.
These changes are part of a greater phenomenon called “globalization” . The improvement in technology lead to a desire to make trades with other countries, and therefore allowing foreign companies to sell in Canada and thereby compete with Canadian companies, and vice versa (“Laisser faire, laisser passer” – Adam Smith).This increased competition lead to ever greater pressures on Canadian companies to reduce their costs of producing goods. Companies closed down and went looking in third world countries because labour is cheaper. At the same time, technology was replacing human labour; employees lost their jobs, being replaced by machines that could do the job faster and more efficiently. This eliminated the manufacturing, low-to-medium skills, well-paying jobs, which didn’t require a very high level of education. While now, our labour markets into high-skills, high-paying jobs on one end of the spectrum, and low-skills, low-paying jobs on the other end. Therefore, one way would be for people have to get a better education to get a better job, get better money, and get themselves out of poverty, which runs along the views of Plato.
But who are the poor in Canada? Are there any identifiable persons or groups who are more likely to be poor than others? Is age a factor? What about gender, race? What about geographical factors? Does living in certain parts of the country make you more likely to be poor than living in other parts? According to Smith, there is in every society an absolute minimum standard of living which consists of survival necessities (shelter, food and clothes), plus additional non-survival necessities as determined by each society’s customs (such as owning a linen shirt and a pair leather shoes in his day). Together these necessities meet not only a person’s basic survival needs, but also allow that person to participate in society with dignity and without the shame and stigma often attached to being poor. To allow any person to live below this minimum standard would, to use Smith’s term, render that society “indecent.”
The following studies have been made by Kevin Lee from the Canadian Council on Social Development:
“1. From 1990 to 1995 the total number of poor people in Canada increased dramatically. During this period, Canada’s total population increased by 6.1 percent, whereas the population of those considered poor increased by 28.6 percent, far outstripping the overall growth.
2. Poverty is largely an urban phenomenon. In 1990, 66.6 percent of the poor population in Canada lived in metropolitan centers. 70 percent of all poor people live in Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto. Between 1990 and 1995, poverty rates rose in every city examined.
3. Poverty rates varied substantial between cities. Cities in Quebec had the highest poverty rates while cities in southern Ontario had the lowest. For example, Montreal had the highest rate in Canada, 2.5 times higher than Oakville, which had the lowest rate.
4. Certain population groups were more likely to be poor than others. These included:
* Single-parent families, whose poverty rate was 2.45 times higher than the average.
* Aboriginal persons, whose poverty rate was 2.26 times higher than the average.
* Recent immigrants, whose poverty rate was 2.17 times higher than the average.
* Visible minorities, whose poverty rate was 1.53 times higher than the average.
* Persons with disabilities, whose poverty rate was 1.47 times higher than the average.
5. Poverty rates varied considerably according to age and gender. The young and the elderly are more likely to experience poverty. The incidence of poverty declines with age until age 45 to 54, after which it rises again. Women in every age groups are more likely to live in poverty, and women seniors above age 75 are the most like of any group. Among males, boys up to age 14 had the highest poverty rate. Children and youth made up one third of the total poor population.
6. Poverty rates varied based on education levels. As expected, in every city examined persons with less than high school education were more likely to be poor than those with a post-secondary level education. However, at least 6 percent of post-secondary graduates in every city lived in poverty, and in six cities that rate was over 20 percent.
7. Poverty rates varied based on occupational skills levels. As expected, persons with lower skills levels had a higher incidence of poverty, however high-skills workers still had high poverty rates in some cities. For example, in Montreal almost 20 percent of high-skills workers were living in poverty as compared to 4.5 percent in Gloucester or Burlington.
8. The average income for working-age families in Canada was $60,400.
9. The average income for working-age “poor” families in Canada was $14,500.”
Taken from http://www.ccsd.ca/pubs/2000/up/
But another question prevails here: How should we help them? Canada has been using a lot of different methods to try and help them. We can find numerous shelters for the homeless, which also provides them with food and water. All this is free for them, but it’s not helping them get out of poverty, it is like a breathing device for them. Without it, they would die. There are other people who do have a home, as humble as it might be, but they are having troubles paying for it, since they cannot find a job. The government supplies those people with an amount of money weekly. This is called the Welfare system, but it is not working as well as in Sweden. This may be because the people are taking this money, and instead of spending it on food and vital needs, some of them go and buy cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. On the other hand, some people are wisely investing it in education, and vital needs. This makes us wonder if our tax money is being spent wisely.
Should the government tax the working people to give and income to the non-working people? There are many points of view about this subject. We may think that it is unfair that you are working to help them, without getting anything in return. We may feel like we are being obliged to care for the less well off. But in fact, by giving them little boost, they are helping us back. If they get a chance at a better education, they could get a job, or even open their own company, which would create employment, and in its turn would increase consumption, and make the economy go round. We would all benefit from this. If this starts off, there would be enough jobs for everyone, thus getting the present poor people out of poverty and help the next generation be poverty free. Of course I am exaggerating, there would never be 0% poverty, but there might be a possibility of a 100% educated population. Once this has been reached, more innovations will be accessible, and the updated Adam Smith would come in play: “Laisser innover”, also known as R&D. This could help in many ways, a good example would be space technology.
The exploration of space has, ever since it began in 1962 with the launch of Yuri Gagarin, been a controversial subject among the peoples of this planet. The controversy surrounds the spending of billions and billions of dollars on the pursuits of space exploration. The thread of the most common argument against space is that there are more pressing problems here on our planet such as pollution, overcrowding, disease, poverty etc. that this money could be spent on. Will taking moneys from space exploration and investing more money in these immediate problems help them? There is no doubt that by investing more in these problems that there will be measurable improvements in all problems. In fact given a conscious effort to spend wisely any problem could be helped. So the question becomes does space exploration help this planet? Can exploring space on its own justify the investment?
The most obvious area where space exploration has benefited our immediate lives is right in every ones own living room. The television newscasts which you watch have been more than likely been transmitted via satellite. The satellite has also allowed trans-continental telephone calls, emergency tracking and a host of other uses. These are measurable benefits in the present, but the question begs as to why we spend money on theoretical research on quasars, missions to the moon, and experimental technologies which seem like science fiction to most people.
The answer to this question lies in the benefit of space exploration that we see today, that is, in satellite communications. More than thirty years ago when Sputnik was first launched that was deemed a marvel of science and technology, almost science fiction. No one person could foresee the benefits that could be gleaned from the launch of this simple spherical metal ball which bounced radio signals back to earth. The point here is that the investment in this project paid off, in what we see today in the form of TV news, phone calls and direct broadcasting television.
It is important to point out that the Sputnik launch and all other attempts including the American Echo project were good investments but there are space projects which failed miserably such as the Russian attempt at building a Super Booster, now called Energia. Millions of dollars were wasted in this failed project. What I am trying to illustrate is that there are good and bad ideas, good and bad investments not only in space exploration but in any field of science. This is what drives the advancement of knowledge.
Space exploration in the broadest sense gives us the future. It is an investment not for the short term but for the long term. It allows us to study different environments, allows technology to develop and allows ideas to be tested. No one can argue that Sputnik was not a wise investment so how can we possibly know that sending missions to the moon is not. The responsibility lies with us to determine what is important and worth pursuing.