Rich getting richer & poor getting poorer, Broadbent Institute data shows

CBC News

The gap between people at the top of Canada's wealth pyramid and those at the bottom is widening and showing no signs of stopping, a major left-leaning think-tank says.

In a report out Thursday, the Broadbent Institute looked at the most recent Statistics Canada data on wealth levels of Canadians. The data agency typically divides the country into five groups of 20 per cent of the population, known as "quintiles" but the Broadbent Institute divided the number into deciles — 10 groups, each making up 10 per cent of the population — for a new look at the data.

Under that analysis, income looks to be distributed even more unevenly than previously thought.

Richest 10% own half the wealth

The report found that the top 10 per cent of Canadians owned almost half — 47.9 per cent — of all the assets in the country.

"This unequal distribution of financial assets challenges the rosy reports of post-recession financial wealth recovery for Canadians," the report reads.

The bottom half of the population, on the other hand, shares a total of six per cent of the wealth. And the majority of Canadians own no financial assets at all, except any pensions they may have access to.

Similar reports have made the claim that while the rich are, in fact, getting richer, the average person is also benefiting from wealth gains — albeit less extravagant ones. Statistics Canada's own data shows that the richest 20 per cent of Canadians saw their net worth increase by 40.6 per cent between 2005 and 2012 — more than any other group — while the net worth of the poorest 20 per cent was unchanged.

The report adds fuel to the income inequality fire, noting that since 1999, all four of the poorest deciles in Canada (in other words, the poorest 40 per cent of the country) have seen their share of total wealth decline. 

The share of total wealth for the fifth through the ninth deciles (the richest 40 to 90 per cent of Canada) all saw their share of total wealth increase, by about one per cent each over the last decade and a half.

Regional differences

The report also found that the wealth gap changes significantly across the country. The concentration of wealth for the top decile is highest in British Columbia at 56.2 per cent and lowest in Atlantic Canada at 31.7 per cent.

And In all regions except Atlantic Canada, the bottom half of the population held less than 10 per cent of all wealth.