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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Income inequity and debt – a major driver of health inequalities.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has started an innovative display of what the Occupy movement was trying so hard to convey:  Wealth is getting increasingly sequestered in the top few percent of the population.    The full piece and the income clock are at http://www.policyalternatives.ca/ceo .   In short, by the start of the first workday on January 3rd, the top 100 executives in Canada had already made more than the average income for all Canadians  – their average annual wage is $8.4M.  Put in perspective, given the average public health workers now makes around $70K per year, that is four times more money that the entire earnings of a 30 year average public health employee. 

This site has written many  times about income inequity including the graphic on the widening income disparity that drove the Occupy movement . Living in tents the Occupy movement more than symbolically demonstrated the financial plight of unaffordable housing.  Yet "we" as a society,  removed their tents and forced them back to live in more expensive housing.  The very actions of a supposed civil society exacerbating the income disparity.   

The Conference board of Canada has provided great graphic representation of the growing Canadian inequality Canadian income inequality.   

If you did not previously see the Sir Richard Wilkinson lecture on income inequality, take the 15 minutes now and  have a gander – it condenses the income inequality discussion.  Wilkinson lecture .     

It has been 20 years since the landmark Rio conference that laid the foundation for many pan-global collaborative efforts, some more successful than others.  The 2011 Rio conference on social determinants left with some great rhetoric and we now need to demand further action.   There are many gems from the conference discussions related to the impact of inequities.   Rio SDOH conference site 

Now as a reminder, we in public health are well endowed. Although we may whine about our relative plight compared to our professional colleagues.  The public health physicians amongst us, likely some of the more poorly paid physicians, still are in the top 1-2% of income earners nationally.  Before exhibiting professional envy, please remember most public health workers earn well above the median national income and are in the top quintile of wage earners.  This applies to those that are single income households, so for those in dual income situations, you are in even more fortunate circumstances.  Collectively we have a role to play in advocating for income equality.  Yet, there is the converse side that we are in part the earners that should be looking to contribute to this equality. 

As you review your bank statements and outstanding financial obligations, likely sharing with most Canadians in expanding debt, take a moment to consider how fortunate we actually are compared to the “average” Canadian.   The average Canadian household debt has reached a record 153% of annual income.   Irrespective of our incomes, we rise to a level of financial obligation which stretches our ability to repay, bolstered no doubt by lending institutions more than willing to establish a long term relationship.   Current university graduates and first home buyers are entering a market driven by the expectation of easy access to “credit” and long term debt repayment structuring.  It is the same fundamental flaws that lead to the subprime mortgage meltdown in the US which started the plunge into recession.

Yet, someone is making money on banks who continue to lend indiscriminately. It is the flow of dollars from those in debt to those that have resources.  From the 99% to the 1%.     From the south to the north. 
And social expectations drive students to post-secondary institutions and young families to suburban single family homes.   There are some fundamental cultural norms that will require readjustment to truly achieve sustainability while readjusting the income disparities that continue to expand.

A great Canadian commentary blog resource comes from Ted Schrenker who blogs at Health as if everybody counted.  Many of the postings relate to discussions on inequity in both a Canadian and international  context, and perhaps a more rigorous and academic analysis than DrPHealth will offer.  As an aside, noting his recent blogs and the continued dedicated  following for this site- there appears to be a role for  “professional commentary” on changing public health climates.  (Thanks Dr. Schrenker  for the endorsement of this site as well)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great summary Dr. P. The Conference Board of Canada's link is extremely interesting and informative!