Study on poverty and literacy shows 400,000 Quebecers are socio-economically vulnerable

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A study released Tuesday points out that in this unusual situation where Quebec is facing both high inflation and labour shortages, a portion of the population is subject to economic and social poverty and low literacy, making them highly vulnerable.

The study entitled 'Overview of a high vulnerability index in several Quebec cities,' conducted by economist Pierre Langlois for the Literacy Foundation, explains that the coexistence of literacy and income issues results in a perfect social storm.

The economist's high vulnerability index reaches 6 per cent of the population aged 15 and over in Quebec, or nearly 400,000 people.

On the one hand, the study noted that poor basic skills hinder employability, salary progression, and educational and professional training. On the other hand, living on a low income makes it almost impossible to make use of the resources and time needed for adult learning or professional retraining without specific financial support.

The author pointed out that the two phenomena feed each other, creating a spiral of social and economic insecurity.

Among the 50 most populous areas in Quebec, this index of great vulnerability peaks at 13.36 per cent in Joliette, 11.96 per cent in Lachute and 9.66 per cent in Shawinigan. The study explains these results by higher-income security issues and lower literacy scores in their population aged 16 to 65.

Suburban cities such as Terrebonne, Brossard, Repentigny, Blainville, Saint-Eustache, Mascouche or Boucherville have vulnerability indices that are much lower than the Quebec average. For example, in Boucherville, it's close to 1 per cent.

A similar result was observed in predominantly English-speaking cities such as Dollard-des-Ormeaux and Pointe-Claire.

To address the high level of vulnerability, Langlois proposed combining a skills requalification program with a program to provide basic financial support. In his opinion, that strategy would enable more than 176,000 people aged 20 to 59 to escape both economic and social poverty.

The economist adds that reducing this high vulnerability in Quebec would generate a recurring economic injection of more than $1 billion in Quebec's gross domestic product (GDP).

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 3, 2022

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