Poverty rates in Alberta, Canada have been alarming in the recent past. It is an embarrassment to have such high cases of poverty in a country that is rated among the most developed. A large proportion of the population in Alberta is significantly poor. Most notable is the poverty among Canadian children and particularly in Alberta. In this province, children, the youth and the homesteads that are headed by one parent have recorded the highest poverty rates.
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Poverty is basically used to describe the situation of having insufficient resources and wealth to enable an individual to lead the kind of life that the society commonly refers to as normal. This includes being in a position to bring up a healthy family, taking children through the education system as well as taking part in the activities of the society normally. The term is used to refer to the collective situation of the poor individuals.
Poverty in Alberta Defined
There is not a universally agree definition of poverty, however the term can be used to describe not just the unavailability of opportunities for the required well being but also refers to the state of being denied the opportunity to leave a life that is tolerable. A life spent in poverty can be shortened prematurely. This kind of living can also be unbelievably painful, hazardous and also very difficult, (Lampman, B., 2002).
The poor individuals can be robbed off their self respect, the respect of other people, confidence as well as dignity. In addition, the poor people can also be deprived of communication and knowledge. The measure that this paper will use to describe poverty in Alberta is the percentage of the people here who live below the Canadian statistics for Low Income Cut-Off (LICO).
The context of poverty in Alberta
Alberta is a province in western Canada. The province is bounded by the United States to the southern part and boarders the Saskatchewan province to the west. This province in Canada is home to a large proportion of the population in Canada. The province is rated as having the population that grows the fastest in Canada actually; the population here grows more than the entire Canadian population, (Lampman, B., 2002).
The large population results from immigration, migration from various provinces and the rapid population growth of the Aboriginal people. Back in the year 2003m it was estimated that approximately 19.8% of all the Albertans 10.1% of the families and 38.4% of the unattached individuals in Alberta lived way below the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO).The statistics also show thaw the poverty rates have increased by 17% between the years 1961 and the year 2003.
The figures below shows the percentage of poverty levels in Alberta and Canada
- Year 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996
- Alberta 12.5 11.8 18.0 15.2 15.8 15.4 19.4 15.9 15.8
- Canada 15.3 16.4 18.1 16.0 14.8 14.6 16.1 16.6 17.6
- Source (Moore, Kristin A. Brown V., 2003).
Consequences of poverty in Alberta
- Poor nutrition; the poverty levels can not allow the people in this province to have the basic nutritional content in their meals. The people do not have a choice since life is a bit too costly for them to be able to afford a healthy diet.
- Lack of education for children; With an income that is below the cut-off points, most parents in Alberta and especially the single parents can not afford to see their children through the education system. They are forced to rely on assistance from the government.
- Presence of diseases; Poor conditions of living and poor diets make the society vulnerable to diseases. The people are not left behind in endemic sexually transmitted diseases especially due to desperation and frustration.
- High crime rates; With poverty and the need to make a living, a lot of people results to other negative ways of making ends meet. Crime rates increase with the raise in poverty levels and this is inevitable in Alberta.
Groups that are vulnerable to poverty in Alberta
Some of the people in Alberta are more prone to poverty in this province than others. Precisely, Alberta children and the unattached persons including their youth, aboriginal peoples and the senior individuals are most vulnerable. The senior persons are more affected than any other group of people as a result of over reliance on incomes that are fixed, (Moore, Kristin A. Brown V., 2003).
Records do indicate that the Aboriginal people are extremely poor and that their rights are not even recognized. Very high rates of violence are noted among them and particularly to the children and women. They are subject to substance abuse, suicide and even murder. There has been insufficient or no support directly to assist these women on all the parts of the Alberta province.
There has been a misconception that only the families that normally depend on the social assistance that is given, however. This is not the case as reports confirm that the poor including children in Alberta come from families where the parents either one or the both of them work thought the year. This then implies that despite coming from working families, poverty is still high in the Alberta and the people here are languishing in poverty.
Social problems caused by poverty in Alberta
- Idleness among the people
- Lack of employment opportunities
- Substance abuse
Policies and government programs to help the people of Alberta escape poverty
The Alberta government should strive to strike an agreement with the concerned ministries like Health and Wellness, Children’s services as well as justice and learning to coordinate the necessary funding and take up responsibility for enacting programs for poverty prevention. This is especially an early program for intervention to ensure that the resources are used in a more effective manner.
To alleviate the persistent poverty, the government should advise federal government through the assistance of the first ministers to come up with tax differences between political and charitable donations. This will indeed improve the climate for fundraising by the charitable entities in Alberta through the government provision of more incentives for donations through more tax credit.
To date, the charitable donations remain at 17% for donations of totaling to $200 and 29% for any donations going beyond $200.This kind of an incentive would involve the community in charitable donations and consequently reduce the poverty rates here, (Lampman, B., 2002).
The ministry of employment and human resources in Alberta should deal with the shortage in supporting independence. This includes inadequate utility allowances, shelter, as well as the lack of adjusting with the increasing living cost. It is not possible to alleviate poverty with the current social rates for assistance. For instance, for the period between the year 1986n and the year 1996 the assistance rates given to one couple with at least two kids in this country dropped by 18.6%.
It is quite ironic to note that the economy in Alberta has been hurting the families that are working and with a low income. This is simply because, the allowances for instance the shelter allowance has been updated to match with the rate of inflation. These allowances have only been increasing marginally whereas the cost of housing has tremendously escalated.
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The rights of the Aboriginal people including the children and women should be protected by the government. These people are seriously affected by poverty and the government should step in to help. The mothers who are single particularly have a very difficult life and the extreme conditions of poverty badly hurt their children and leave the family devastated.
In a bid to protect the rights of these people, the government may be required to distribute funds to the organizations that work with the aboriginal women directly. There is need for the government to recognize the Aboriginal people in every part of the province and appreciate that the women among them are the central part of the family as well as the community and provide them with the resources that they need so badly to change the situation.
The creation of employment opportunities would go along way in changing the poverty levels here, (Fisher, Gordon M. 1999). Though the people hold jobs that are full time and are carried out through the year, there has not been any improvement on the poverty levels. Most of them have wages that are way below the cut-off for income as established by the Canadian statistics. The employment hence should enable the people to live a decent life an also be comfortable as well as meet their daily requirements.
The provision of general health care for all and child care to the province that is more so affordable and of high quality. The current situation has aggravated poverty since it has seen the operating allowances reduced. The government here should see to it that social programs and policies are developed and also implemented effectively and meaningfully and in total consultation of the recipients and stakeholders of the groups, (Citro, Constance F and Michael, Robert T, 2001).
The people of Alberta live in poverty though they come fro a developed and rich country. Majority of the poor people are children, single parents, the Aboriginal people and the youth. The most embarrassing point is that even people who are part of the workforce are also living in poverty. Due to the poverty levels, social problems like escalated crime rates, poor health and nutrition as well as presence of endemic diseases is a common occurrence in this province. The government has already put some measures in place to curb poverty but it still needs to have programs that will eliminate poverty once and for all.
- Citro, Constance F and Michael, Robert T, (2001): Measuring Poverty: A New Approach National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
- Fisher, Gordon M. (1999): The Development and History of the Poverty Thresholds. Social Security Bulletin
- Lampman, B., (2002): How Many People Are Really Living in Poverty? Economic History Services
- Moore, Kristin A. Brown V., (2003): The Uses and Misuses of Social Indicators: Implications for Public Policy, The Child Indicator,