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An overview of recent demographic and economic trends impacting low income and social assistance use in London and neighboring CMAs in Southwest Ontario

TitleAn overview of recent demographic and economic trends impacting low income and social assistance use in London and neighboring CMAs in Southwest Ontario
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsKerr, D., Smith-Carrier T., Michalski J., and Wang J.
Document Number2017-1
InstitutionUniversity of Western Ontario
CityLondon, ON

This report portrayed low income, demographic, and socioeconomic trends for the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of London, ON. Using data available from various datasets provided by Statistics Canada, it provides an overview of how recent demographic and economic trends have impacted the quality of life of Londoners, with a particular emphasis upon its low income residents. Across CMAs in Southwestern Ontario, there are several cities that are growing quickly, whereas others have experienced more moderate growth. We document here how London's population growth has lagged behind other CMAs in the region. For current purposes, demographic and economic data for London was contextualized by making systematic comparisons with eight other CMAs situated in the Southwestern region of Ontario. London has had a variety of associated challenges, particularly in terms of slowing labour force growth and population aging. As people are drawn to where employment opportunities exist, slower demographic growth in London can be explained partly by its failure to attract migrants (both international and internal) relative to other parts of the region and country. This is all impacted by the relative state of the local economy and the associated job opportunities that are available to Londoners. As London's employment growth has fallen behind its rate of population growth, the CMA's employment rate has also fallen (the percentage of the population 15+ years employed). The decline cannot be explained by shifts in age structure, population aging, and demography alone. London's employment rate has fallen from being higher than the national average in the early 2000s to below the national average in 2015. The proportion of London's population that could be working but who are economically inactive has risen, which has direct consequences for those with lower income and more precarious employment. These dynamics have been translated into recent trends in terms of income, income poverty and social assistance use. In terms of average income, the CMA has seen its relative position slip. For example, whereas in 2000, London's median income across families and non-attached persons was roughly $3,300 greater than the Canadian median, by 2014 this median had dropped to about $330 under this average. In terms of low income, London's low income measure (LIM-after tax) has remained persistently high: 14.8% of Londoners are low income in 2014, second only to Windsor (17%) across Southwestern Ontario. In terms of social assistance–both the OW and ODSP programs have grown at a faster rate than is true of the province overall. When considering exclusively persons on OW, the relative percentage of London's population reliant on social assistance ranks second only to Windsor across Southwestern Ontario's eight CMAs. As the current report demonstrates, among certain age groups the proportion reliant upon social assistance in the London CMA is greater than one in ten residents, with pockets of poverty that are particularly severe. All of this is consistent with what is known of the CMA's employment situation, i.e., difficult labour market conditions are logically linked to higher rates of income poverty and higher rates of dependency on social assistance. CMAs with the lowest welfare usage and lowest rates of economic dependency are specifically those that provide good jobs and commensurate salaries.

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