1 in 4 Canadians can’t afford a sudden $500 expense: StatCan

Despite inflation slowly slowing, there is no letting up in the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, as Statistics Canada provides a snapshot of just how financially strained some Canadians are right now.

Between October and December 2022, StatCan surveyed people from coast to coast and discovered one in four admitted they would not be able to pay for a sudden expense of $500, like a car repair, for example.

However, those in B.C. reported being the best equipped to cover that cost.

The agency also found about one-third of people had also experienced some financial difficulty sometime in the previous 12 months.

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CityNews hit the streets of Vancouver to get an idea of how people are feeling, and it was a little bleak.

“I hear from a lot of my sister’s friends that they’re struggling to make ends meet or even feed themselves,” says one woman.

“I’m a student currently and food costs and everything about living in Vancouver is insanely high right now,” says another.

“With inflation and the cost of gas and everything, we don’t have the extra funds. We’re just trying to manage our day-to-day,” says one woman who’s looking to find a new place to live. “I’ve been here 10 years, B.C. now for me means ‘Bring Cash’ because it’s not cheap to live here. We’re looking to move and we’re trying to find a new unit and that’s almost impossible. It’s a balancing act that’s for sure, so good luck to any new people who might be thinking about coming out here.”

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“Even when we pay everything, there’s no more left in my salary so I need to work two jobs,” adds one strained resident.

While another stresses, “Every dollar of my life is counted on.”

B.C. and Ontario, where housing is the most unaffordable, are where nearly half of the people surveyed said they were really concerned with being able to pay for rent or housing, in general. While more than a quarter of people in both provinces admitted they had wanted to move but did not or moved sooner than planned because of high housing prices.

Racialized groups affected differently

Statistics Canada says 74 per cent of Black Canadians and 65 per cent of South Asian Canadians admitted to feeling worried about the cost of housing.

The 2021 census found these groups were also less likely to be homeowners and more likely to face financial vulnerabilities when it comes to housing.

“Non-racialized, non-Indigenous people (38 per cent) reported the least concern over housing prices. When asked whether rising prices influenced their decision to move within the past six months, over 4 in 10 Filipino (48 per cent), South Asian (41 per cent) and Black (40 per cent) people agreed that it had, compared with slightly over 1 in 5 non-racialized, non-Indigenous individuals (21 per cent),” finds the report.

The age gap

When it comes to feeling the financial pinch, younger adults are way more concerned about their future while older people are more comfortable.

“Almost half (46 per cent) of people aged 35 to 44 years found it difficult to meet their financial needs in the previous 12 months, the highest proportion of any other age group. Those aged 45 to 54 years (41 per cent) had the next highest proportion, and people aged 65 years and older (25 per cent) were the least likely to report difficulty,” states the report.

Despite all this, Canadians are still reporting some financial confidence.

“Canadians aged 25 to 34 years reported the highest level of optimism regarding an improvement in their financial situation in one year, with 37 per cent reporting a belief that it will improve. This optimism steadily declined across older demographics, with seven per cent of those aged 65 years and older believing that their financial situation would improve within one year,” says Statistics Canada.

With files from Angelyna Mintz

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