Recent report, indicating half of Perth-Huron households earn less than a living wage, gives rise to reflections; I have shared a 2017 EKOS report about shifting meaning of middle class

At a previous post, I have highlighted a report that brings attention to the noteworthy fact that half of the households in Perth and Huron Counties in Southwestern Ontario earn less than a living wage:
One in two households earn less than a living wage in Perth & Huron. These photos, taken by residents, underline the impact of low incomes

38% of my income. Source: page 6, How Much Is Enough?. Credit: Kassie

A feature of the report is the photos by Perth-Huron residents which serve to drive the story line.

Just sharing information is not going to make that big a dent on changing attitudes with regard to the subject matter at hand.

Storytelling based upon photos by residents can, however, in a case such as the recent Perth-Huron report, be more compelling than storytelling that is based solely upon facts and figures.

Facts and figures can be highly compelling for some readers, but in many cases they will not serve to change attitudes – for example, by reducing stigmatization, of a kind that is driven by a wide array of stereotypes.

Stereotyping serves as a form of distorted cognitive shorthand – it fosters quick conclusions about people, in the process ignoring or wiping away the evidence, which is typically sold and extensive, that contradicts the stereotype.

I have also recently uploaded a post that deals with the history of deindustrialization in Ontario. Again, the post focuses on storytelling of a nature that brings deindustrialization to life. The post focuses on the experiences of particular individuals, as contrasted to narratives that are more abstract:

Barb Kollar seeks photos from fabled mill history binder of Sturgeon Falls; she has shared photo of her Grandfather, a manager at the mill

At the latter post, I have outlined my own evolving attempts at understanding – through concepts such as metaphor and materiality, and the role of blurbs in the social construction of meaning – what local and global history actually entails.

Abstract studies also interest me. At the current post, I seek to share some insights from research about income inequality,  deindustrialization, and other aspects of economic history. I am equally interested in the experiences of particular individuals, and in research results that are presented in more abstract terms.

Among my current interests, with regard to history, is the question of to what extent the income profile of Stratford has changed since the early 1950s, when the Stratford Festival was launched. To what extent has the demographic profile of Stratford changed, since that time – in particular, since the late 1980s?

From what I have read about trends elsewhere, poverty and precarity of income are growing trends worldwide. My working hypothesis pending further reading is that income inequality in Stratford has likely been increasing for some decades.

Along with photography and data visualization, literature can at times help us learn many things. At the conclusion of the current post I refer briefly to the short stories by Alice Munro.

Understanding the Shifting Meaning of the Middle Class (2017), by Frank Graves

The current post focuses on an online PDF document, Understanding the Shifting Meaning of the Middle Class (2017) by Frank Graves.

Click here to access Understanding the Shifting Meaning of the Middle Class (2017) from EKOS Politics >

A noteworthy feature of the report, aside from its content, is that it excels in application of data visualization.

Among other things, the report notes that that based on data starting from about 1910, income inequality in Anglo-Saxon countries was highest from about 1910 until 1945. It declined substantially until the late 1980s, whereupon it began rising to levels approaching the 1910-1945 period. (Source: Piketty, Thomas, and Arthur Goldhammer. Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014).)

The story is told succinctly, largely in visual terms.

The introduction to the EKOS Politics report reads:

This report represents a synthesis of public opinion findings from EKOS and others to help understand Canadians’ attitudes regarding what it means to be middle class today.

  • This report was prepared for the Privy Council Office, and follows a review of the academic literature which looks at the evolving forces shaping the middle class from an economic and sociological perspective.
  • The views expressed in this report are those of EKOS Research Associates, Inc., and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of Canada.

The executive summary for the report reads:

  • Issues related to the middle class are extremely salient to the public.
  •  The confusion and disagreement evident among commentators does not reflect the clarity and salience within the public.
  • The longer-term literature examining structural forces tends to be closer to the public’s view on the middle class crisis.
  • There is broad agreement that the ‘middle class dream’ and shared prosperity are not working in the 21st century.
  • Tepid growth and an acceleration of the concentration of wealth and income at the very top of society are critical factors.
  • The evidence is that positive intergenerational mobility is declining, particularly as we move from older to younger Canada.
  •  Self-defined middle class membership has been declining, but the magnitude of the decline needs to be more clearly understood.
  • ‘Middle class’ is now all about the conspicuous absence of security, and no longer defined by progress where skills and effort produce forward movement.
  • The public are increasingly rejecting neo-liberalism and conditionally receptive to a more active role from the state to come up with a blueprint (and action) to restart middle class progress.
  • While self-defined class membership is very positively associated with income and education, there are even more powerful linkages to health and happiness.
  • Workplaces are a microcosm of the macro problems discussed above.
  • While there is a model associated with prosperity and wellbeing in the workplace, the trajectory for the key ingredients of that model is downward.
  • A foremost concern evident at both the micro and macro levels is declining emphasis on skills and knowledge.
  • Despite a consensus that Canada had to become “smarter,” Canadians are less apt to view higher education or the professions requiring it as priorities.
  •  Of great concern, it appears that the era of stagnation and rising inequality at the top may have mutated into a rise in populism, nativism, and an “ordered” outlook (also known as an “authoritarian” outlook).
  • There is an urgent need to provide an updated empirical platform which refreshes and connects these key areas on a unified database, preferably using U.S.-Canada and (possibly other) cross-national comparisons.

[End of excerpt]

Direct confrontation with economic stagnation and escalation of wealth concentration is essential

A previous post of interest regarding the topics at hand is entitled:

Direct confrontation with economic stagnation and escalation of wealth concentration is essential, to counter rise of populism – July 2019 Toronto Star opinion article

Alice Munro speaks about Southwestern Ontario

In getting to know Southwestern Ontario, I’ve begun reading short stories by Alice Munro, whose stories are often set in Southwestern Ontario.

A Jan. 3, 2019 Atlantic article is entitled: “Revisiting the Deep Sense of Place in Alice Munro’s Debut, 50 Years Later: Dance of the Happy Shades introduces young, female protagonists confronting expectations as firmly rooted as the rural landscape in which they live.”

An excerpt reads:

While many of the stories in Dance of the Happy Shades borrow from the lives and rural settings of Munro’s childhood, it is her mother’s lengthy affliction with Parkinson’s disease that gives rise to an important shift in the book. Munro admits in the same CBC interview that her mother is “probably the most painful subject I can deal with,” and in correspondence with her editor at Canadian Short Stories (a CBC radio program that featured her early work), she describes her great difficulty in transforming that material “into the kind of writing I wanted.” That struggle may well have enabled the breakthrough story “The Peace of Utrecht,” whose expansive style and elastic structure most clearly resemble the later work her fans would come to expect.

A related Nov. 29, 2019 article is entitled: “The Books Briefing: What Does Home Mean to You? The places that make us and the places we make our own: Your weekly guide to the best in books.”

An excerpt reads:

“My home was not simply a house or a town but, more importantly, an awakening story,” Chinua Achebe writes in his memoir Home and Exile.

For Achebe, this realization was part of what motivated his work: He saw that Africa’s image in the eyes of the world had been shaped by a colonial narrative, and set out to write novels and criticism that helped convey a more accurate picture of the continent. Many other authors also find inspiration in the idea of homes and homelands, exploring the complex and bittersweet associations of the places people leave behind or choose to make their own.

Additional articles, on topic of food banks

A July storm 24, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “Food bank map helps politicians see hunger in their own backyard: Feed Ontario’s new interactive map shows food bank use riding by riding.”

An excerpt reads:

He said another aspect of food bank use that the map made clear was that, although there are clients in every riding, some parts of Toronto are more at risk of food insecurity than others.

“You do see areas where there is virtually no food bank usage and areas of heavy concentration and those areas of heavy concentration might be in the centre of the city as they are and they might be in far reaches on the outskirts,” said Hetherington. “There is clearly a tale of two cities. There is clearly a divide.”

A Nov. 4, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “‘Troubling’ new numbers show food bank use on the rise in Toronto, Mississauga: Report links housing costs to food insecurity, says visits from Mississauga residents rose 16%.”

A Dec. 2, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “Ontario hunger report says 1 in 10 Ontarians can’t afford a basic standard of living: Those with employment accessing food banks has increased by 27 per cent.”

An excerpt reads:

In its report, Feed Ontario says that almost half of all minimum wage workers — who account for 15 per cent of Ontario’s work force — are above the age of 25, with one third of them holding a post-secondary degree and a half working full time. Part-time work has also increased.

Meanwhile, the number of temporary positions — such as “casual, seasonal, and contract roles” — has increased by 31 per cent since 1998.

These positions, Feed Ontario said, have lower compensation and make it difficult for individuals to build savings for a home or support a family.

1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    A March 25, 2022 Stratford Beacon Herald article is entitled: “United Way report shows housing costs outpacing wages in Huron-Perth: A new report on the Future of Housing by the United Way Perth-Huron’s social research and planning council highlights the potential impacts of housing-cost increases continuing to outpace wage increases in Perth and Huron counties.”

    An excerpt reads:

    Since many residents of Perth and Huron counties can’t afford to purchase a detached home at that average price while more attainable or affordable housing options are harder to find, Lamport-Lewis said local employers are having a harder time attracting and retaining workers to the region.

    Without that workforce, she said the region could become less attractive to new industry and business, which could lead to area municipalities losing out on much-needed tax revenue to support the health and social services the large and growing population of Perth-Huron residents aged 65 and older need.

    With so much at stake, the authors of the Future of Housing report included a number of recommendations and solutions with their findings.

    “There’s a lot of opportunities for living-wage employers to step into the ring. We’re looking at education and awareness around sort of the changing merit of housing. We need all types of housing, not just the single-detached home anymore. We also need to maybe utilize the not-for-profit housing corporation because they’re focused on affordable and attainable housing (and) we really need to look at strategies for retention of the workforce,” Lamport-Lewis said.

    In addition to providing area municipalities with the information they need to address the housing crisis locally, Lamport-Lewis said she hopes the report will serve to educate the general public around the need for all styles of housing in their communities.


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