2010 FDR - Chapter 1: Standard of living

Standard of living touches on many issues that are important in our lives today: access to health services, quality education, gainful employment, and access to material goods and services. Quality of life indicators such as leisure, safety, social life, freedom of religion and culture, and a clean environment are sometimes included in the concept of standard of living.

Vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, tend to have a lower standard of living than others due to factors such as low income, lower educational attainment, lack of affordable housing, and unmet needs for aids and devices.

Because standard of living is such a multi-dimensional concept, it is a challenge to find a suitable measure. Individual welfare is typically measured using a single monetary indicator, such as household income or household expenditures. Poverty rates and “income growth inequality” are popular measures of standard of living that use these monetary indicators. Recognizing that there are many ways of looking at standard of living, this chapter explores the standard of living for Canadians with disabilities using low income cut-offs, employment income, household income and housing data.

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Income

People with disabilities are over-represented within the low-income population. Footnote 2 They are also more likely than people without disabilities to have less than a high school diploma and to live alone. Unattached individuals are particularly vulnerable to low income due to the absence of another earner in the household. Furthermore, the effects of disability on work (e.g. occupation, hours of work and earnings) help explain why low income is more common among people with disabilities.

The low income cut-offs

One established way to calculate the incidence of low income in Canada is to use Statistics Canada’s “low income cut-offs” (LICO). Footnote 3 A family is said to be living below the after-tax LICO if the proportion of their income that they spend on key necessities, such as food, shelter and clothing, is 20 percentage points more than the average family, adjusted for family size and community size.

Chart 1.1: Adults living in households below the after-tax LICO by age group and disability status, 2006 (%)

A text description of Chart 1.1 is provided below
Chart 1.1 Text Description

This vertical bar graph illustrates the number of adults living in households below the after-tax LICO by age group and disability status, 2006 (percent)

The chart is divided into six sections, each section representing an age category. The horizontal axis lists the age groups. On this axis from left to right are the following categories:

  • 15 to 24
  • 25 to 54
  • 55 to 64
  • 65 to 74
  • 75 plus
  • Total

The vertical axis is measured by percentages and increases in increments of 5 from 0 to 25.

In the 15 to 24 age group the percentage of people with disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 20.6.

In the 15 to 24 age group the percentage of people without disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 14.4.

In the 25 to 54 age group the percentage of people with disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 20.5.

In the 25 to 54 age group the percentage of people without disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 10.0.

In the 55 to 64 age group the percentage of people with disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 19.6.

In the 55 to 64 age group the percentage of people without disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 8.3.

In the 65 to 74 age group the percentage of people with disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 6.1.

In the 65 to 74 age group the percentage of people without disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 5.0.

In the 75 plus age group, the percentage of people with disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 14.2.

In the 75 plus age group, the percentage of people without disabilities living in households below the after-tax LICO is 10.1.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey

As they age, people with disabilities are less likely to live below the after-tax LICO. When people with disabilities reach age 65 and begin to qualify for Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan, and other government subsidies, these transfers decrease the low-income rate, bringing the rate for adults with disabilities closer to par with the rate for adults without disabilities. Footnote 4 As Chart 1.1 shows, the overall percentage of adults with disabilities who live in low-income families is 14.2%, compared to 10.1% of adults without disabilities.

Employment income

Average employment income Footnote 5 for working-age adults with disabilities is $29,393, which is 22.5% lower than the average of $37,994 for working-age adults without disabilities. Severity of disability affects income: the average employment incomes for those with severe disabilities and very severe disabilities are $23,786 and $19,447 respectively, compared to $33,427 for those with mild disabilities.

In addition, working-age adults with different types of disabilities have very different workforce experiences. Those with developmental disabilities have the lowest average employment income ($18,172), followed by those with mental health disabilities ($19,063) and those with communication disabilities ($19,485). In contrast, people with hearing disabilities earn the highest average employment income ($32,676).

Different occupations often have different levels of employment income associated with them. For example, Chart 1.2 reveals that people who work in management occupations earn significantly more than people who work in sales and service occupations. Working-age adults with disabilities are more likely to be employed in certain occupations; since income is associated with occupation, and occupation is associated with disability, it is important to explore the relationship between average employment income and occupation.

Chart 1.2: Average employment income by occupation, disability status and gender for working-age adults, 2006 ($)
Occupation sector Footnote 6 Women Men Total
With Disabilities Without Disabilities Total With Disabilities Without Disabilities Total With Disabilities Without Disabilities Total
Management 33,278 45,900 45,003 42,052 68,252 66,233 39,047 60,278 58,690
Business, finance and administrative 22,208 29,963 29,270 32,785 50,550 49,243 24,773 35,637 34,711
Natural and applied sciences 41,724 45,711 44,728 44,702 53,208 52,986 43,050 51,583 51,302
Health 29,915 36,068 35,373 42,394 77,404 74,969 31,264 44,480 42,641
Social sciences, education, government service and religion 28,359 34,459 33,933 39,648 51,760 50,476 32,062 40,743 39,888
Art, culture, recreation and sport 23,400 24,744 24,856 27,287 31,125 29,641 23,834 27,816 27,151
Sales and service 13,906 17,474 17,102 26,598 33,673 33,066 18,540 24,372 23,774
Trades, transport and equipment operators 22,556 20,734 21,110 29,948 37,208 36,485 29,220 36,082 35,389
Primary industry 9,665 13,741 13,452 20,006 28,150 27,514 18,165 24,930 24,386
Processing, manufacturing and utilities 22,986 21,635 21,887 31,338 36,549 35,981 29,132 30,832 30,697
Chart 1.2 Text Description

This chart describes the average employment income by occupation sector (in rows), for men, women and total (in columns).

The columns are divided into the following sections reading from left to right:

  • Women with disabilities
  • Women without disabilities
  • Women, total
  • Men with disabilities
  • Men without disabilities
  • Men, total.
  • Total with disabilities
  • Total without disabilities
  • Total, cumulative

The rows are divided into Occupation Sectors:

  • Management
  • Business, finance and administrative
  • Natural and applied sciences
  • Health
  • Social Sciences, education, government service and religion
  • Art, culture, recreation and sport
  • Sales and service
  • Trades, transport, and equipment operators
  • Primary industry
  • Processing, manufacturing and utilities

For the Management occupation sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 33,278 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 45,000 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 45,003 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 45,052 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 68,252 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 66,233 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 39,047 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 60,078 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 58,690 dollars

For the Business, finance and administrative sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 22,028 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 29,963 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 29,270 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 32,785 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 50,550 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 49,243 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 24,773 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 35,637 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 34,711 dollars

For the Natural and applied sciences sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 41,724 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 45,711 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 44,728 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 44,702 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 53,208 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 52,986 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 43,050 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 51,583 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 51,302 dollars

For the Health sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 29,215 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 36,068 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 35,373 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 42,394 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 77,404 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 74,969 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 31,264 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 44,480 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 42,641 dollars

For the social sciences, education, government service, and religion sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 28,359 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 34,459 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 33,933 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 39,648 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 51,760 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 50,476 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 32,062 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 40,743 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 39,888 dollars

For the art, culture, recreation, and sport sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 23,400 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 24,744 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 24,856 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 27,287 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 31,125 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 29,641 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 23,834 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 27,816 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 27,151 dollars

For the sales and services sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 13,906 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 17,474 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 17,102 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 26,598 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 33,673 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 33,066 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 18,540 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 24,372 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 23,774 dollars

For the trades, transport and equipment operators sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 22,556 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 20,734 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 21,110 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 29,948 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 37,208 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 36,485 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 29,220 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 36,082 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 35,389 dollars

For the primary industry sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 9,665 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 13,741 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 13,452 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 20,006 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 28,150 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 27,514 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 18,165 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 24,930 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 24,386 dollars

For the processing, manufacturing and utilities sector

  • The average employment income for women with disabilities is 22,986 dollars
  • The average employment income for women without disabilities is 21,635 dollars
  • The average employment income for all women is 21,887 dollars
  • The average employment income for men with disabilities is 31,338 dollars
  • The average employment income for men without disabilities is 36,549 dollars
  • The average employment income for all men is 35,981 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women with disabilities is 29,132 dollars
  • The total average employment income for both men and women without disabilities is 30,832 dollars
  • The total average employment income for all men and women is 30,697 dollars
  1. Average employment income by occupation is age-standardized.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey

As demonstrated in Chart 1.2, working-age adults with disabilities have a lower average employment income than working-age adults without disabilities in all occupation sectors. In the processing, manufacturing and utilities sector, the gap between those with and without disabilities is the smallest, with a difference of $1,700. There are large gaps in earnings for both men and women in management occupations, health occupations, and business, finance and administrative occupations.

While, overall, working-age adults with disabilities earn less than working-age adults without disabilities, men and women have different experiences. Women with disabilities earn more on average than women without disabilities in the trades, transport and equipment operators sector and in the processing, manufacturing and utilities sector. Men with disabilities earn less on average than men without disabilities in all occupation sectors; however, the gap between men with and without disabilities is the smallest ($3,838) in the art, culture, recreation and sport sector. Generally, the earnings of women with disabilities are closer to the earnings of women without disabilities, whereas men with disabilities earn much less on average than men without disabilities.

Household income

Whereas employment income provides information only on adults with disabilities who work, household income Footnote 7 provides information on all sources of income within the household. Since many people with disabilities receive financial support from other people living in their households or from social transfers, household income can provide even more information on standard of living.

On average, adults with disabilities have lower household incomes than adults without disabilities. Working-age adults with disabilities have an average household income of $64,565, compared to $89,480 for those without disabilities. Overall, working-age adults with disabilities live in households with 27.8% less household income than working-age adults without disabilities. People with disabilities who are married or in a common-law relationship have an average household income of $78,020, which is 19.7% lower than the average for married or common-law people without disabilities ($97,140). Among younger working-age adults, single people with disabilities have an average household income of $45,730, compared to $68,180 for single people without disabilities.

Housing

For all people, both with and without disabilities, a home is the cornerstone of a person’s independence and provides a sense of belonging. For people with disabilities, housing affordability, adequacy, accessibility and suitability are key to community inclusion and independent living. Footnote 8

With the high incidence of low income among people with disabilities, it can be difficult for them to find adequate housing; 9.9% of adults with disabilities live in “inadequate homes” (i.e. homes that are in need of major repairs), compared to 6.4% of adults without disabilities. Of those who have disabilities and are living in low income, 13.9% live in housing that requires major repairs, compared to 9.2% of low-income adults without disabilities. Housing in need of major repairs can have serious negative effects on owners and tenants, including health complications, psychological distress and social withdrawal.

Low-income people are more likely to rent rather than own their dwellings. Among adults with disabilities who live in low income, only 35.5% own their homes, compared to 77.5% of adults with disabilities who do not live in low income. While there are similar trends among people without disabilities, a slightly higher number own their homes: of low-income adults without disabilities, 41.6% are homeowners, compared to 79.6% of adults without disabilities who do not live in low income.

Low-income adults with disabilities are more likely to live in apartments Footnote 9 (55.6%) than in single detached houses (31.1%). The opposite is true for adults with disabilities who do not live in low income; they are more likely to live in single detached houses (63.0%) than in apartments (25.0%). Low income has the same effect on people without disabilities; 54.5% of low-income adults without disabilities live in apartments, while 32.5% live in single detached houses.

Building accessibility is most often looked at from the perspective of people with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs, where ramps help them to enter or exit buildings. While ramps are an important feature for any building design to incorporate, people with mobility disabilities are not the only people with disabilities who encounter building inaccessibility. People with hearing disabilities, seeing disabilities, memory disabilities, chronic pain and other types of disabilities all face potential barriers in their residences and immediate surroundings. For example, people with hearing disabilities may be unable to hear fire alarms.

Many adults with disabilities (9.0% or 334 020 adults with disabilities) use accessibility features at home. Some examples of accessibility features are widened hallways or doorways, ramps or street-level entrances, visual alarms or audio warnings, and elevators or lift devices. Overall, 5.0% of adults with disabilities require an accessibility feature for their residence but do not have it.

While people with other types of disabilities do have unmet needs for home modifications, the most common unmet needs remain mobility-specific: elevators or lift devices, grab bars in the bathroom, and ramps for access to and from the residence are the most common unmet needs, as shown in Chart 1.3.

Chart 1.3: Unmet needs for residential accessibility features for adults with disabilities, 2006
Residential accessibility feature Number Percentage
Elevator or lift device 59 160 31.8
Grab bars in the bathroom 41 890 22.5
Ramps 40 210 21.6
Bath lift in the bathroom 14 370  7.7
Automatic doors  9 650  5.2
Street-level entrances  8 860  4.8
Easy-to-open doors  7 680  4.1
Widened doorways or hallways  7 500  4.0
Lowered counters in the kitchen  6 070  3.3
Visual alarms or audio warning devices  3 150  1.7
Other features 55 970 30.0
Chart 1.3 Text Description

This chart describes the residential accessibility features (in rows) by number and percent (in columns).

The columns are divided into the following sections reading from left to right:

  • Residential accessibility feature
  • Number
  • Percent

The rows describe the different types of residential accessibility features.

For elevator or lift device, the number of unmet needs is 59,160 or 31.8 percent.

For grab bars in the bathroom, the number of unmet needs is 41,890 or 22.5 percent.

For ramps the number of unmet needs is 40,210 or 21.6 percent.

For a bath lift in the bathroom, the number of unmet needs is 14,370 or 7.7 percent.

For automatic doors, the number of unmet needs is 9,650 or 5.2 percent.

For street-level entrances, the number of unmet needs is 8,860 or 4.8 percent.

For easy-to-open doors, the number of unmet needs is 7,680 or 4.1 percent.

For widened doorways or hallways, the number of unmet needs is 7,500 or 4.0 percent.

For lowered counters in the kitchen, the number of unmet needs is 6,070 or 3.3 percent.

For visual alarms or audio warning devices, the number of unmet needs is 3.150 or 1.7 percent.

For other features, the number of unmet needs is 55,970 or 30.0 percent.

  1. Numbers are different from those in other reports due to different methodology.
  2. Population consists of the 5.0% of adults with disabilities that require an accessibility feature for their residence but do not have it.
  3. Respondents could choose more than one option.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey

In addition, 5.2% of adults with disabilities experience difficulties with participating in everyday activities due to inaccessible design and layout of their residences. Of those who experience difficulties, 52.2% experience some difficulty, 31.9% experience a lot of difficulty and 12.9% are completely unable to participate.

Conclusion

Supporting people with disabilities in maximizing independence and well-being is essential for adequate standard of living. Income and housing are some of the most important components of well-being; however, the statistics presented in this chapter reveal that some adults with disabilities have trouble meeting these basic needs. These difficulties decrease quality of life and ability to participate fully in society, and can have long-term negative consequences for social and economic outcomes. Through continued support of people with disabilities through government-funded and non-profit social programs, vulnerable people with disabilities can receive help in meeting their basic needs. Once these needs are met, doors can be opened to other areas of life such as education and employment.

Spotlight on programs: Residential Rehabilitation Assistance - Program for Persons with Disabilities

Through the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program for Persons with Disabilities, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers financial assistance to support low-income homeowners with disabilities and landlords who have tenants with disabilities in modifying existing housing to improve dwelling accessibility.

Modifications must be related to housing and reasonably related to the occupant’s disability. Examples of eligible modifications are ramps, handrails, chair lifts, bath lifts, height adjustments to countertops and cues for doorbells or fire alarms.

For more information about this program, please call CMHC toll free at 1‑800‑668‑2642.  TTY users can call CMHC toll free at 1‑800‑309‑3388.

Spotlight on the old post office in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta

When Canada Post built a new post office building in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, a town councillor recognized an opportunity to convert the old post office into affordable housing and community service space. That was the beginning of a partnership between the federal, provincial and municipal governments and community groups that led to the creation of affordable housing for lower-income families and single people with physical disabilities.

Like most government buildings, the old post office was built to last. This made it an ideal candidate for conversion to housing. The converted post office has five barrier-free units for people with disabilities, as well as an accessible women’s emergency shelter and office space for five local community service agencies on the main floor of the building.

CMHC and the Government of Alberta provided $350,000 through the Affordable Housing Initiative. Most of the remaining costs were covered through CMHC’s Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, with $168,000 from the conversion component and $96,000 from the above-described component for people with disabilities.

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