Cost of living, workplace tensions atop concerns for B.C. families

As British Columbia observes its second Family Day on the same date as other Canadian provinces, Research Co. looked at the way parents in B.C. are feeling about the present and the future. While economic indicators point to a province that is on solid footing, there are certain aspects of daily life that continue to complicate matters for families.

A majority of residents of British Columbia who have a child up to age 18 living at home acknowledge having experienced stress “frequently” or “occasionally” due to four different concerns. Tension at work is at the top of the list (58%), followed closely by financial stress (57%), family-related anxiety (53%) and housing-related preoccupations (51%).

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There are some subtle gender differences. Dads in British Columbia are more likely to say that they are stressed by their job (63%) and their family (56%) than moms. It is important to note that anywhere from 15% to 23% of parents in the province claim to never experience any tension related to money, work, family or housing.

Across the province, almost three in five moms and dads (58%) say it is “very easy” or “moderately easy” for them and their family to make ends meet. This leaves two in five parents (40%) who are having a “moderately difficult” or “very difficult” time with their current state of affairs.

Parents in southern B.C. appear to be having a better time facing life, with just 28% saying that it is difficult to make ends meet. The proportion is significantly higher in Metro Vancouver (39%), the Fraser Valley (40%) and Vancouver Island (45%). However, the area that seems to be having major struggles is northern B.C. (60%).

When it comes to families and money, certain aspects of family life are harder than others, and the location of parents plays a role in just how serious the situation can be.

Almost two in five parents in the province (39%) say paying for transportation is currently “moderately difficult” or “very difficult,” but the proportion rises to 47% in southern B.C. Paying for child care is hard for 42% of families, but in northern B.C. the number climbs to 59%. Dealing with day-to-day expenses is a challenge for 44% of parents, including 56% in the Fraser Valley.

These localized struggles are making it particularly complicated for families in the province to plan for the future. Almost three in five parents (58%) say saving money in a bank account is difficult for them and their families.

The fear of a future where their children are forced to move outside of their current municipality is real for a sizable proportion of parents in British Columbia. Across the province, 66% of parents believe it is “very likely” or “moderately likely” that their child (or any one of their children) will have to move away due to the high cost of living.

The proportion of parents who expect their children to move away for financial reasons is highest in northern B.C. (73%), followed by southern B.C. (69%), Vancouver Island (68%) and Metro Vancouver (66%). Parents in the Fraser Valley (48%) are more confident that their kids will find a way to continue with their lives close to home.

The results outline a disturbing trend. Last year, only 42% of parents in Metro Vancouver expected their child or children to move to a different municipality due to the high cost of living. The proportion has increased by 24 points in 12 months, at a time of increased government intervention to facilitate housing options for young residents.

Parents in British Columbia have different worries in mind. The cost of child care continues to be a concern, and the provincial government has vowed to increase spending on this file, even if it falls short of the overwhelmingly well-received $10-a-day proposal that has been championed by early childhood educators for years.

Still, housing accessibility for children who leave the family home is the one issue that is making parents apprehensive. While families now are not explicitly preoccupied with this matter, they are reluctantly pondering a future with their children away from their current municipality.

The idea of a son or daughter relocating one or two towns over could play a role in perceptions of all levels of government, in spite of the current popularity of the housing taxes. •

Mario Canseco is the president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted February 4–7 among 623 adult parents of children up to age 18 in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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