For the first time, the Canadian Government now has developed an official measure of poverty based on the Market Basket Measure (MBM). Canada’s official poverty line will be “based on the cost of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living in communities across the country” (Government of Canada, 2018).
The MBM, LICO, and LIM are measurements of relative poverty. Relative poverty occurs when a person or household is in a situation worse than that of other members of their local or national community. In this case, discussions of poverty focus on differences of income, but do not always include information regarding the actual conditions in which the individual or family live (Lamman & MacIntyre, 2016).
In contrast, absolute poverty is defined as the deprivation of a basic needs, where basic needs are defined as those goods and services necessary to achieve and maintain a minimum, sustainable standard of mental and physical well-being. When persons live in absolute poverty, their lack of resources presents a real threat to their long-term health and overall well-being (Lamman & MacIntyre, 2016).
The majority of persons who experience poverty will only live with low income for a relatively short period of time. However, a small percentage of Canadians will experience persistent poverty, situations of poverty lasting over long periods, or even the entirety, of a person’s lifetime (Lamman & MacIntyre, 2016). Some characteristics that put a person at greater risk of persistent poverty include being a member of a single-parent household, experiencing a physical or mental disability, or not having achieved a high school diploma (Lamman & MacIntyre, 2016).
Implicit in each of the measurements associated with poverty in Canada (LICO, LIM, and MBM), is that the national, working definition of poverty is primarily monetary. However, it is also important to recognize that aspects of poverty are missed when only monetary definitions are operative—poverty impacts persons holistically, thus, any definition and corresponding measurement of poverty rightly includes such elements as relational, structural, and spiritual impoverishment.