New polls show the middle class dream in Canada is fading. More people are retiring still in debt, and the middle class is shrinking. PHOTO: Ryan Remiorz- Canadian Press

Canada: The middle class dream shrinking rapidly

After a long working life, most people hope to have an easy and enjoyable retirement.  That was one of the basic concepts of the “middle class dream”.  That may have been more possible in the past but a new survey shows more and more Canadians enter retirement still having to deal with substantial debt and facing uncertainty about their remaining years.

The Sun Life Financial Barometer is a new national survey that shows one in five retirees are still facing mortgage payments.

Of those:

  • 66% have unpaid credit cards;
  • 26% are making car payments;
  • 7% have unpaid health expenses;
  • 7% owe money on holiday expenses or vacation property; and
  • 6% haven’t paid off home renovations.

    Sun Life; Ipsos Research

At the same time almost a quarter of working Canadians were withdrawing from retirement funds.  Of that number 63% did so because they needed to (e.g., health expenses, debt repayment);

24% as part of the First Time Home Buyers’ Plan; and 13% because they wanted to (e.g., vacation, car purchase).

The Sun Life Financial Barometer is based on findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between October 13 and October 19, 2017. A sample of 2,900 Canadians between ages 20 to 80.

David Galvin of Hamilton Ontario has two degrees and a career in high-tech when he lost his job ten years ago. Now 65, he as struggled since and is working as a security guard PHOTO-CBC

Another survey by Ekos Research for the Canadian Press shows serious concerns for the middle class, one of the main pillars of the economy.

The poll breaks down society into four financial classes, the poor, the working class, middle class, and upper class.

Ekos Research polls asked Canadians about their financial situation. The middle class has dropped significantly, those classing themselves as poor has doubled. IMAGE: EKOS Research

Part of a larger survey on the “populism” movement, the survey shows the middle class is shrinking in Canada, along with the  middle-class dream

The surver found that people considering themselves as “middle class” has fallen from 70% of respondents in 2002, to under 50 per cent today.  The percentage responding as “poor” has doubled from about 5 per cent to over 10 per cent.

Ekos president Frank Graves quoted by the Canadian Press says”The whole notion of a middle-class dream — ‘I work hard, build a better mousetrap, do better than my parents, my kids do better than me, I get a house, a car, retire in comfort’ — that has all been shattered”.

The telephone poll queried over 7,800 Canadians from Nov 7-10, 2017.

There is broad agreement that the ‘middle class dream’ and shared prosperity are not working in the 21st century. Ekos March 2017

The findings echo an earlier study by Ekos in March 2017 on the middle class for the government Privy Council Office.

That study noted that “the end of progress” was first identified in 2012 and noted that; “Middle class’ is now all about the conspicuous

absence of security, and no longer defined by progress where skills and effort produce forward movement”.

The report also points out that rapidly growing income inequality, stagnating incomes, downward intergenerational mobility and jobs that are unsatisfying and poorly paid all factor into what may be perceived as a growing malaise and worry about the future, and that that rising inequality is associated with declining intergenerational mobility.

From the Ekos March 2017 survey IMAGE Ekos Research

It notes that “Over 40% of working class say they were middle class a decade ago – this fall from relative privilege is linked to anger, hopelessness and less healthy and happy lives”/

It also concludes on a bleak note saying amongst other things, progress even as far back as 2005 was not unfolding as it had in the last half of the 20th century and that the middle class bargain is broken.

It also says the economic outlook is bleak and that, “Younger generations are much more likely to be falling backward and see an even steeper decline in future”.

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