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Many B.C. seniors are living in poverty

Half of single B.C. seniors are living on $25,000 or less per year, according to a study released on Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Seniors’ poverty rose from a low of 2.2% in 1996 to 12.7% in 2014, and many seniors have incomes just above the poverty line.

The rise is mainly driven by the 28% of seniors who live alone. Single women face a particularly high risk of economic insecurity in old age. One-third of single senior women live below the poverty line.

More women are in poverty partly due to gender inequality in the job market, which translates into unequal pension income in old age. The typical senior woman in BC receives 21% less income from the Canada Pension Plan than the typical man.

“We often see stories that pit generations against one another—with seniors described as a homogenous group of well-off retirees,” said Iglika Ivanova, an economist at the CCPA-BC. “Our research shows this isn’t the case.

“While BC seniors are doing okay on average, looking only at the averages misses the big picture of income and wealth inequality.”

Seniors have higher average wealth than working-age families, but the average is driven up by a wealthy few. The poorest 20% of senior households in Canada had a median wealth of only $15,000 in 2012, while for the top 20% it was over $1.6 million.

The report recommends a number of solutions including a poverty reduction plan, increased public investment in home and community care, further expansion of the Canada Pension Plan and addressing the gender-wage gap.

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