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High interest rates widen Canada's wealth gap

A recent study by Statistics Canada reveals that high interest rates are exacerbating the wealth gap in Canada, hitting lower-income households the hardest. The federal agency's report, published on Monday, indicates a notable increase in the disposable income gap between the top 40 percent and bottom 40 percent of earners during the third quarter of 2023, compared to the previous year.

According to the report, the rising disparity can be attributed to the impact of high interest rates on household finances. The increased cost of loan payments has particularly affected the disposable income of lower-income earners, leaving them with limited funds for investment during a period of potentially high yields.

The report notes that while higher interest rates result in elevated borrowing costs for households, they can also lead to higher yields on saving and investment accounts. However, lower-income households face challenges in capitalizing on these higher returns as they generally have fewer resources available for saving and investment.

For instance, the report highlights the case of guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), which previously yielded low returns due to ultra-low interest rates. With interest rates now on the rise, GIC investors have the opportunity to earn returns of over five percent, depending on factors such as maturation time, investment value, and the financial institution.

Interestingly, the study reveals that high-income households are better positioned to take advantage of the current investment landscape. The top 20 percent of earners experienced a 3.2 percent increase in disposable income during the third quarter. Their wages rose by 5.7 percent, and net investment income surged by 9.9 percent.

In stark contrast, lower-income households saw a decline of 9.8 percent in net savings during the same period. The cost of living outpaced their wage increases and investment returns, forcing them to dip into their savings to meet everyday expenses. This troubling trend highlights the vulnerability of lower-income Canadians as they grapple with financial challenges amid increasing interest rates.

The report also sheds light on a unique trend among the youngest households in Canada. Despite the overall increase in mortgage debt for many, the youngest households bucked the trend by reducing their mortgage debt in the third quarter compared to the previous year. Statistics Canada suggests that this might be a positive indication, signaling that more young people are either turning away from homeownership or selling their homes due to affordability concerns.

In conclusion, the widening wealth gap in Canada is a multifaceted issue driven, in part, by the impact of high interest rates. As policymakers consider strategies to address this growing disparity, it is essential to prioritize initiatives that support the financial well-being of lower-income households and ensure a more equitable distribution of economic opportunities.



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