Dr. Paul Kershaw brought his “Generation Squeeze” message to Kelowna Friday, suggesting young Canadians are “working and studying more to have less of a lot of things.”
Kershaw, a UBC professor and leader of the Generation Squeeze campaign, spoke to social workers, government representatives and others at an event hosted by Community Action Toward Children’s Health (CATCH).
CATCH also released its annual Central Okanagan State of the Child Report at Friday’s event.
Kershaw said Canadians under 45 are feeling squeezed to pay off student debt, put a down payment on a home, afford to start a family and save for retirement.
“In 1976 it took the typical 25- to 34-year-old in this country five years of full-time work to save a 20 per cent down payment on an average home,” said Kershaw.
“Today, across the country, it now takes twice as long…in our province, it now takes three times as long.”
He explained governments spend $45,000 per citizen over age 65; however, only $12,000 is spent per citizen under 45. He said those over 65 need all the funding they get, but young Canadians could use extra help.
The Generation Squeeze solution is to increase spending on Canadians under 45 by $1,000 per person: From $12,000 to $13,000.
Kershaw said that extra funding and key policy changes could save the typical family around $50,000.
The first suggestion is to make 18 months affordable for parents to share at home with a newborn.
“In the past, parents would often spend years at home with a young baby.”
The second suggestion is to make child care $10 per day.
“We could bring down the cost from somewhere between $8,000 and $12,000 on average and bring it more to $2,500 per kid (annually).”
Those changes will help young Canadians pay off their student debt and reduce the time it takes to put a downpayment on a home, according to Kershaw.
Kershaw is optimistic the Generation Squeeze campaign will be able to mobilize young voters the way the Canadian Association of Retired Persons has mobilized seniors.
“The reality is platforms get organized around who shows up. Canadians under age 45 are a third less likely to show up at the ballot box than Canadians over the age of 45.
“Until I can help others reverse that, we’re probably going to see the same age gap in social spending.”
At the end of Kershaw’s presentation, CATCH released its 2013 State of the Child Report.
The report indicated the overall child poverty rate in B.C. is 17.1 per cent; 34.2 per cent of single-parent households have income levels that fall below the Low Income Measure in the Kelowna Metropolitan Area.
The report determined the 2013 Living Wage for the Central Okanagan is $18.01 per hour, to deal with: Average housing costs of $1,264.96 per month, average food costs of $832.82 per month, average child care costs of $1,133.39 per month and average monthly transportation costs of $492.46 for families.