BY ANITA PATIL HUBERMAN
CEO, Surrey Board of Trade
ON November 26, the 2013 Child Poverty Report Card was released. BC, again, has the worst rate of child poverty in Canada. Almost 19% of BC children live in poverty – compared to the 13% in the rest of the country. For more information go to www.firstcallbc.org
There are some who say that the business of business is business, with no role beyond commerce and the activity of making money for shareholders. There have, of course, been a number of business leaders who have shown admirable interest and actions in issues outside business. But, in the face of harsh truths presented in BC’s child poverty report card, I am asking this question – as business leaders today, do we care enough about our youth and children? I also know that unless we address the issue of children – their health, education, poverty and wellbeing – it will cost business and shareholders in the long term.
The Surrey Board of Trade has called for both the provincial and federal governments for a national poverty reduction plan. We are the only developed nation in the world that does not have one. We know this is important as leaders of business and enterprise, as creators of wealth, as influencers of local and national policies.
In respect to the Stats of child poverty in BC, our statistics are simply unacceptable. They are beyond comprehension. As business leaders, we need to be concerned about the issues with children and youth health and welfare?
Surrey is a young city that is growing at a phenomenal pace of 900 new families per month coming to live here and is projected to surpass Vancouver’s population in the next 8 years.
In Surrey, 32% of children in kindergarten are considered vulnerable and not ready for school in terms of their physical development, social maturity, or ABCs/123s. (For Canada, 27% are considered vulnerable). These kids are more likely to go to jail, and less likely to earn grades to go to post-secondary schools. At least two-thirds of this early vulnerability could be avoided.
The Surrey Board of Trade is concerned about putting child poverty in the context of business as we face labour shortages in our workplace. Where we need each person in BC to be productive workers contributing to our economy.
Children who experience poverty, especially persistently, are at higher risk of suffering health problems, developmental delays, and behaviour disorders. They tend to attain lower levels of education and are more likely to live in poverty as adults.
For Business this is unacceptable to our future, and to our economy.
BC and Canada have the opportunity to implement anti-poverty strategies that incorporate a number of “active” policies. Active policies are social policies that integrate strategies across governments, departments, and service providers to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency. For example, active job policies may be set up to help people overcome obstacles to get jobs through a combination of:
* funding jobs training
* providing child care
* introducing tax incentives for lower-paid workers
Again I reiterate that in a time of skill shortages – every person to be productive – let’s give them the opportunity to get out of poverty. Child poverty is everybody’s business. Increase labour market participation – improve access to quality services
The Surrey Board of Trade knows that key public investments in quality child care and affordable housing will save us money in the long run and build healthier families, communities and workplaces.