A collective of Quebec foundations that looks at inequalities

On January 26, the Collectif des fondations arranged a study day to gain a better understanding of how inequalities arise in our societies and to compare the situation in Quebec with the limited data available, in Canada and elsewhere in the world, using OECD data..

Here are a few highlights from the findings presented to us by public health researchers and the economists invited to that discussion day:

Marie-France Reynault, Professor at the UdeM school of public health and Director of the Léa-Roback research centre, summarized the situation in Quebec and Canada as follows:

  • Canada is a wealthy country. It sits about average among the developed countries, when comparing it to Norway, the United States, Sweden, France and Belgium;
  • The 1% portion of the wealthiest inhabitants has been increasing continually since the 1980s, although it has declined slightly over the past three years;
  • The inequalities are not as great in Quebec as in the other Canadian provinces;
  • Canada’s debt is lower than that of Japan, France and the United States, but higher than that of the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand;
  • The personal income tax weight in Quebec is higher than in the rest of Canada and than the average of the OECD countries;
  • Commodity taxes in Quebec are below the average of the OECD countries;
  • The tax burden in Quebec (37.6%) is slightly higher than the average of the OECD countries (34.3%), whereas that of Canada is slightly below (31.9%);
  • The low-income rate in Quebec dropped slightly between 2002 and 2014. It barely changed among single people, dropped among families and greatly increased among single-parent families since 2008, but has been fairly stable since 2011.
  • The low-income rate is practically unchanged in Quebec, but great regional disparities are seen, and it has increased in the MTL region.

According to Céline Thévenot, Political Analyst, social policy division, at the OECD Centre for Opportunity and Inequality:

  • Inequalities are reaching record levels in most OECD countries;
  • Non-standard work is widening the inequalities;
  • Inequalities are dampening economic growth; Social mobility is slowed;
  • It isn’t just a question of poverty, but of the stagnating of the 40% poorest;
  • A high concentration of wealth is adversely affecting investment in human capital;
  • The increase in female participation has reduced the inequalities;

To counter these trends, the OECD recommends that member countries:

  • Invest in human capital;
  • Promote high-quality, steady and inclusive jobs;
  • Support women’s participation in the labour market;
  • Boost the effectiveness of the redistribution systems;

Stéphane Paquin, Professor at the ÉNAP, holds the Canada Research Chair in International and Comparative Political Economy. His work has enabled him to study the public policies of Quebec and the Scandinavian countries. Here are his findings:

The lowering of the debt in the Scandinavian countries in the late 1980s brought about a state reform. “Those who are in debt are not free” was the slogan.

There is no major difference in hours worked or academic success. Also, they invest in R&D more than we do and have greater productivity. They have trade surpluses.

Sales taxes in the Scandinavian countries are very high.

The party system promotes industrial relations in the choice of policies.

He notes some quality in the public service and public information. Transparency gives rise to trust.

Claude Lessard, Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Education Science at the UdeM and past President of the Conseil supérieur de l’Éducation, recently compared the academic success of young people based on the institutions attended. He notes a gap of more than 17% to 26% in the success, based on subjects, between Montreal’s private schools and public schools located in the districts with a high deprivation index. He is very critical of the schools’ specific programs and selection tests that further the gaps in success and naturally benefit the children from the wealthiest families and the most gifted ones.

Lastly Ianik Marcil, independent economist and journalist, showed us the main findings from the 10 Billion Solutions conference. His comments essentially involved listing the policy choices that we could make in order to spend less or manage more revenue so as to better balance public finances and make our society more egalitarian.

In a workshop, the participants expressed some desires for reducing the inequalities:

Prevention, closeness, male/female equality, integration of immigrants, support for civil society, political activities, democratic structures, ethical investments, distribution of wealth, length of programs, measurement of objectives…

Categorization, individualism, privatization, levels of disengagement, spirit of charity, corruption…

For more information and the presentations in detail, visit www.collectifdesfondations.org