Measuring Poverty Reduction

Provincial law required the Manitoba Conservative government to release a report last month measuring the progress of our province’s poverty reduction strategy, which was introduced in 2009. This report, which has been published annually since 2013, tracks the progress of 21 indicators that measure poverty and social exclusion, including graduation rates, the availability of childcare, the number of children in care, and support for affordable housing.

Their report is available online here. They delivered a pretty shoddy effort, compared to previous years. The Pallister government’s stripped-down report reports the bare minimum of facts, and–unlike previous years–provides no vision or plan outlining what it will do to make progress on improving these important aspects of poverty and inclusion.

Pallister’s first budget indicated that his government would be developing a comprehensive plan to address poverty, but the Conservatives have since been silent on the issue. We want a comprehensive plan with targets and time lines, and we want Manitobans to have a say in what that looks like.

The Conservative government’s goal is to “make Manitoba the most improved province in the country.” But how will the Premier measure improvement under his government? In addition to looking at economic indicators, will he count the number of Manitobans that gain access to affordable housing, child care and food security? Will he measure the number of Manitobans that are lifted out of poverty? Maybe not. But we will.

Below are some of the social indicators with baseline data that we will track in the coming years.

Affordable Housing: More than 1,700 units of social housing and 1,800 units of affordable housing have been created since the introduction of the Province’s poverty reduction plan in 2009. 10.3% of Manitoba’s off-reserve households experienced “core housing need” (meaning their housing in need of extensive, unaffordable repairs) in 2011 (most recent year available), which is down 8.8% since reported five years earlier.

Early Learning and Childhood Development: 18.1% of children under 12 had access to a regulated child care space in 2015, which is up 10.4% since the introduction of the Province’s poverty reduction plan in 2009. More than 9,000 child care spaces were funded during that time.

Education: Manitoba’s high school graduation rate was 86.1% in 2015, an increase of 9% since the introduction of the Province’s poverty reduction plan in 2009, and a 22% increase since 2002.

Number of Children in Care: 3.5% of Manitoba children (10,501 children) were in the care of a Child and Family Services agency in March 2016. While the proportion of children in care has grown since 2008, it remained stable between 2013 and 2015.

Poverty: Low-income rates averaged around 15% throughout the 1990s. They began to trend downward in the following decade to a low of 9% in 2008 when the global recession hit and contributed to rising rates in the immediate years that followed. By 2014 (most recent year available), low-income rates had still not yet fully declined to pre-recession levels, according to different measures of poverty:
11.0% of Manitobans lived below the MBM low-income thresholds
9.5% of Manitobans lived below the After-Tax LICO thresholds
15.0% of Manitobans lived below the After-Tax LIM thresholds

Inequality: Inequality in the distribution of income (measured by the Gini coefficient) was 0.297 in 2014, which is down from 0.305 since the introduction of the Province’s poverty reduction strategy in 2009. This means that province has become slightly less unequal in terms of the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

These are all key numbers that help describe how the poor and the vulnerable are faring in Manitoba. The government’s sketchy progress report doesn’t give us much optimism that they care about improving their lives or opportunities.Value Manitoba will track these indicators to hold the the province to its promise to “improve” Manitoba, and to make sure that any improvement is shared by all.