According to a new Canadian study, Generation X, the generation after the Baby Boomers, is struggling to raise families.
Researchers discovered Canadian parents of today are raising families with less money and time even though the country’s economy has doubled in size since 1976.
“What we’re seeing is something I call ‘Generation Squeeze,’” said Paul Kershaw, Ph.D., a family policy expert from the University of British Columbia.
“The generation raising young kids today is squeezed for time at home, squeezed for income because of the high cost of housing, and squeezed for services like child care that would help them balance earning a living with raising a family.”
“The early years have such a dramatic impact on the rest of people’s lives,” said Nazeem Muhajarine, Ph.D., who leads a Healthy Children initiative and whose team has been working with Kershaw and his colleagues on the report.
“As a society, we can either pay now — by better supporting the generation with young children and giving their kids a better start in life — or pay much more later by trying to deal with the effects of today’s declining standard of living.”
Researchers plan to release the study in Saskatchewan, a province with a progressive focus in health policy.
“Canadians in Saskatchewan led the development of our country’s greatest social policy achievement – universal access to medical care,” Kershaw said. “We now need citizens to show similar policy leadership if we are to ensure Canada once again works for all generations.”
Kershaw and a team of researchers have created reports for each province in Canada, comparing the costs of living, household incomes and services available to families today with those during the 1970s.
In the study, researchers uncovered a disturbing trend — while Generation Squeeze struggles to raise young families, retiring Baby Boomers have higher incomes and more wealth as the housing market has nearly doubled over their adult lives.
“The Occupy Wall Street movement and related protests across North America signal a growing concern about inequity between the rich and the rest,” Kershaw said. “Our pan-Canadian study shows we can only address these pressures by tackling the inherent intergenerational tension.”
Kershaw and colleague Lynell Anderson found that the average household income for young Canadian couples has flat-lined since the mid-1970s (after adjusting for inflation) even though the share of young women contributing to household incomes today is up 53 percent.
While household incomes have stalled, Generation Squeeze is simultaneously struggling with the costs of living because housing prices increased 76 percent across the country.
Experts believe the time, income and service squeeze extends to everyone. Researchers discovered the Canadian business community pays more than $4 billion annually because of work-life conflicts among parents of preschool children.
The current stress results in higher absenteeism, employee health insurance premiums and recruitment expenses. The squeeze also contributes to rising costs of crime, poverty, education and health care.
Unfortunately, Canada is among the worst industrialized countries when it comes to adapting to the declining standard of living for young families.
Kershaw has proposed policy changes, called the New Deal for Families, that include enabling mothers and fathers to stay at home with newborns until they reach at least 18 months of age, providing child care services that cost no more than $10 per day, and allowing employees and employers to use flex-time to better balance time spent at work with time spent at home.
Source: University of Saskatchewan