A majority of Canadians report that they’re living paycheque-to-paycheque and that they’re very or somewhat stressed about covering their monthly expenses. With the cost of food dominating headlines about inflation, 25% have skipped a meal.

We created the Pluriel Economic Precarity Index to measure Canadians’ ability to make ends meet—an important and too often overlooked concept that isn’t captured in traditional indicators like “consumer confidence.”

Objective indicators like GDP growth and unemployment are one thing, but these subjective indicators show Canadians are struggling, and they give some much-needed background to the anger many Canadians feel toward incumbent politicians and business institutions.

Majorities report that they’re living paycheque-to-paycheque and that they’re very or somewhat stressed about covering their monthly expenses. With the cost of food dominating headlines about inflation, 25% have skipped a meal.

Canadians’ cost-of-living crisis—from our biggest cities to our rural communities—will continue to have a visceral impact on Canadians’ political choices and, through the limitations on Canadians’ discretionary spending, on business conditions. Economic precarity is something we should all be paying attention to, from the legislature to the boardroom.

Gabe De Roche, CEO of Pluriel

Download the full report here.

Indicator 1: Living paycheque-to-paycheque

  • 56% of Canadians report living paycheque-to-paycheque, meaning they have nothing left for their savings after covering their monthly expenses
  • Those with lower incomes are more likely to be living paycheque-to-paycheque (70%), though even middle-income Canadians are stretched (50%)
  • Affording housing is a struggle: majorities of Canadian renters (71%) and homeowners carrying  a mortgage (54%) are living paycheque-to-paycheque
  • More than 6-in-10 Canadians aged 18-54 report that they’re living paycheque-to-paycheque
  • Quebec (44%) and Atlantic Canada (46%) are the regions of Canada with smallest proportions reporting that they live paycheque-to-paycheque. The Prairies (AB, SK, MB) is the region reporting the highest rate of living paycheque-to-paycheque at 65%

Indicator 2: Stress covering monthly expenses

  • 55% of Canadians are “very” (23%) or “somewhat” (32%) stressed about covering their monthly expenses
  • Majorities of Canadians at all income levels are at least somewhat stressed about covering their monthly expenses
  • The only group with relatively lower stress levels are homeowners without mortgages, suggesting higher interest rates are taking a bite out of Canadians’ financial health

Indicator 3: Missed credit card payments

  • The vast majority of Canadians report that they’re able to make their credit card payments on-time (83%), while 17% say they haven’t paid on time
  • We find an age gap here, however, with 28% of Canadians 18-34 having not paid their credit card bills on time, compared to 20% of those 35-54, and only 9% of those over the age of 55
  • Similar numbers of middle- and upper-income Canadians say they’ve paid their bills on time (86% and 87%), while that number falls to 78% for lower-income Canadians

Indicator 4: The job market

  • A bare majority (53%) of Canadians are “very” (15%) or “somewhat” (38%) confident that someone like them would be hired at the same or better pay if they lost their job tomorrow
  • Even though unemployment in Canada is on a slightly upward trajectory (5.7% in October 2023, up 0.2 percentage points from the month before), we might still expect confidence to be higher than what we find – meaning  job numbers aren’t necessarily translating into confidence
  • Confidence in the job market is highest in Quebec (77% very or somewhat confident), while confidence is statistically equivalent in the remaining regions of the country
  • We find little difference in confidence in the job market between those without a BA and those with a BA or higher – suggesting skills don’t necessarily translate into job market confidence

Indicator 5: Skipped meals & food bank use

  • The much-reported rising cost of groceries and food is reflected in our findings on the “skipping meals” indicator of economic precarity
  • Fully 25% of Canadians say they’ve had to skip a meal or use a food bank at least once in the last three months because of their financial circumstances
  • This includes 11% of Canadians who’ve had to do so several times

Pluriel’s Economic Precarity Index Methodology

To generate Pluriel’s Economic Precarity Index score for October 2023, each of the five survey items comprising the index were recoded symmetrically between 0 and 1, with 1 = most precarious and 0 = least precarious.

An economic precarity index score for each respondent was calculate by summing their answers to each recoded survey item, and then this number was divided by the total number of survey items (5).

To generate the total Canada-wide score, we calculated the weighted mean of the individual respondent scores (using respondent-level survey weights that correct for observable sample imbalance) and multiplied this number by 100. 

The Economic Precarity Index can thus be interpreted as 100 = all respondents select the most “economically precarious” response to all survey items, and 0 =  all respondents select the least “economically precarious” response to all survey items.

Future iterations of Pluriel’s Economic Precarity Index will report scores for that round of the survey, as well as changes benchmarked against the October 2023 score in order to track change over time.

Methodological note

This survey, part of the What Canadians Think omnibus survey (one of Pluriel’s high-frequency data products) was conducted online from October 24 to 26, 2023, with a sample size of 848 adult (18+) Canadians. Respondents were recruited from a blend of online panel providers to maximize representativeness. Sample imbalances were minimized through the use of quota sampling on age, gender, and region, and post-stratification survey weights were applied to correct for any remaining observable sample imbalance. The margin-of-error for an equivalently sized probability sample is +/- 3.4% (19 times out of 20). Margins-of-error for subgroups are larger commensurate with their share of the population. Reported percentages may not always add to 100 due to rounding. This survey was paid for by Pluriel.