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Nearly a quarter of Canadians say they’ve lost most or all of their income during the COVID-19 pandemic

Empty Yonge Street in Toronto during the pandemic. Chris Donaldson/Shutterstock
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Twenty-three per cent of Canadians reported losing most or all of their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a poll conducted by Toronto-based predictive analytics firm Riwi. 

That’s more than the 20 per cent in the U.S. who said they’d lost most or all of their income, and the 13 per cent in the U.K. Fifteen per cent of Canadians reported losing about half their income, and 13 per cent lost about a quarter.

Riwi runs surveys on dormant or vacant URLs, reaching a broad segment of internet users including groups like young people and immigrants, who are often missed in traditional polling methods. The firm, which collected data on a wide range of ways COVID-19 is affecting both Canada and the world, shared key findings on data from April 20 to May 18 with The Logic.

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Talking Point

More Canadians said they’ve experienced severe income loss than people in the U.S. or U.K. Canada is also ahead when it comes to the percentage of people working and/or studying from home during the pandemic. And Canadians were more likely to approve of their reopening pace than people in the U.S. or U.K., 44 and 42 per cent of whom, respectively, said their country was reopening either somewhat or much too fast. Thirty-three per cent of Canadians said the pace was too fast.

Because of the unique way we gather data and our approach to question design, our results sometimes differ from other data out there, and the differences can at times matter a lot,” said Danielle Goldfarb, head of global research at Riwi. Goldfarb said over half of Riwi’s survey takers in Canada have not taken a survey of any other kind in the past month. She also said its unweighted survey results nearly match Canadian census data in terms of age, gender and geographic distribution, although they “tend to skew a bit younger, more educated, and more urban.”

Income loss

Young Canadians were the most impacted: 34 per cent of people between the ages of 14 to 24 reported losing most or all of their income, followed by 29 per cent of those between the ages of 25 to 34.

Losing jobs or paying bills biggest concern

Twenty-seven per cent of Canadians said paying bills or losing their job was the biggest stressor affecting most of their family and friends, more than those in the U.K. or China, but behind the U.S.’s 30 per cent. Only seven per cent of Canadians listed having “enough food” as the biggest stressor.

Lockdown fatigue

Fifty-three per cent of Canadians said they were always avoiding public places, gatherings and physical contact with others for the week ended May 17. However, that number has dropped for the past four weeks from its peak of 66 per cent the week ended April 19. At the same time, the number of Canadians saying “there is no need” to avoid the spaces was up from nine per cent in mid-April to 13 per cent for the week ended May 17. 

About 10 per cent of Canadians reported they were not avoiding public spaces because they had “no choice,” with another approximately 10 per cent saying “there is no need” every week from mid-March to mid-May. The number of people who said they avoided public spaces at least some of the time has hovered at around 80 per cent throughout.

Activities resuming too quickly 

One-third of Canadians said the government was allowing citizens to resume regular activities too quickly. Twenty-three per cent, however, said the pace was too slow and 44 per cent said it was just right. Canadians were more likely to approve of their reopening pace than people in the U.S. or U.K., 44 and 42 per cent of whom, respectively, said their country was reopening either somewhat or much too fast.

One-third of Canadians are working from home 

At 37 per cent, Canadians were more likely than people in the U.K. or U.S. to be working and/or studying from home during the pandemic. People in China were well above other countries, though, at 65 per cent. Canadian women were more likely than men to report not being allowed by their employers to work and/or study from home, at 20 per cent compared with 17 per cent. People between the ages of 35 to 44 were most likely to report not being allowed to work from home at 24 per cent, with those 65 and over the least likely, at eight per cent.

Education staff most likely to be working from home

Eighty-three per cent of people in the education sector reported they were working and/or studying from home, ahead of technology and engineering, at 77 per cent. About one-quarter of people in both the government and financial-services sectors said they weren’t allowed to work from home, behind only the health-care sector at 37 per cent.

Numbers in the working from home chart by sector have been updated with more recent data. Numbers in the income source chart and the most common anxieties chart have been corrected.

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