Last week’s column ended on a note about the importance of the middle class to ensure income equality in Canada.
Since then Stats Canada has released a number of demographic reports highlighting the movement of Canadians from East to West in pursuit of full-time employment with a livable wage. At the same time 61 presidents of Canadian colleges, institutes and polytechnics were meeting with government officials in Ottawa to talk about skills shortages.
Their talks centered upon workplace technology and the increase in demand for an educated and technically savvy labour force.
These talks arose as a consequence of projections that suggest employers will not be able to fill 1.5 million jobs in the coming year because we don’t have the workers to meet the job skills required (even if you include immigration).
This scenario of labour shortages occurring in conjunction with high rates of youth unemployment and sector unemployment arises because some Canadians just don’t have the education or the skills to meet job market needs.
Hence the middle class begins to erode because anyone living on EI benefits or social assistance is unlikely to live a middle class life.
Growing income inequality is on the horizon.
On top of this you have the working poor, those individuals who have limited job skills—even with full employment they don’t make enough to pay their bills.
Contrast that situation with a country (Canada) that prides itself on equal opportunity for all, and a key question emerges; to what extent do we expect our governments to intervene when it comes to supporting the unemployed and the poor?
On the whole, most of us believe that our society should have a number of safety nets where no one really goes without food or shelter. We believe these nets prevent a huge gap between rich and poor.
So at what point do we expect government to invest further in education and training to move beyond income assistance?
If we truly believe in a democratic society (which encompasses a solid middle class that earns enough money to provide for their families, save for retirement and pay taxes), then we should support a system which most Canadians can be part of the middle class through gainful employment at a wage that sustains them. This support needs to help workers get the education and skills to fill those 1.5 million job vacancies.
Without finding ways to help Canadians secure these jobs we will end up with more people requiring support and fewer people who will be paying the taxes to provide it.
Statistics from the latest economic boom showed that the rich got richer compared to both the middle and lower classes.
As our economy begins to move forward it’s important that we recognize the need to sustain and grow the middle class.
The occupy movement forced many governments take a hard look at inequality. Social economists argue that in any country with any type of growth, governments would be wise to invest their resources in social development through education and other services.
In strong nations, citizens support their government, not the other way around.