A Labour Day 2023 snapshot of the working Canadian

All the numbers you need to know to understand the average Canadian’s financial plight during these trying times. Photo credit: Pexels/Mikhail Nilov


As Canadians enter the holiday weekend, many are financially stressed and worried about what the fall will bring for their household. To put the lot of a working Canadian into proper perspective, here is a Labour Day 2023 snapshot – statistics and facts about personal finances, presented without commentary. 


Statistics Canada (StatsCan) reports the average income for working Canadians is $54,000 and the median income is $41,200 (in 2021, which is the latest statistics available). On average, working Canadians make $4,500 monthly. 

One in ten Canadians (11 per cent) have an annual income of $100,000 or more. One in fourteen Canadians (7 per cent) live in poverty. 


Canadians’ consumer debt has risen to a record level, with an average consumer debt load of more than $21,000, excluding mortgages, according to consumer credit reporting company TransUnion of Canada. Consumer debt has risen 5.6 per cent in this past year. In the first quarter of 2023, the average credit card balance for Canadians (per card) was $3,909, which is up 22 per cent pre-pandemic. 

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports Canadians are the most indebted consumers of the G7 countries with a household debt of 187 per cent of disposable income (2022). This debt load has resulted in household disposable income dropping 4.8 per cent in the past year, when adjusted for inflation and population growth. 


The Fraser Institute calculates that, on average, Canadians pay 46.1 per cent of their income to taxes – income, payroll, health, sales, property, profit, sin, fuel, carbon taxes and more. In 2023, Tax Freedom Day was June 19 – the date in the calendar year when Canadians finished paying taxes to the government and began earning money for themselves. This is a full eight days later than the pre-pandemic 2019 Tax Freedom Day, when Canadians paid 43.9 per cent of income to taxes. 

The Fraser Institute’s tax index reports Canadian tax bills were the fastest growing expenditures, surpassing the rising cost of housing, food and clothing. Today, taxes are the largest household expense for families. An average Canadian family will pay more in taxes (45 per cent) than on the necessities of life (36 per cent). To put this tax burden in perspective, in the 1960s, the average Canadian family paid 34 per cent in taxes and 57 per cent on basic necessities. 

Carbon Tax 

The federal government’s carbon tax has Canadians paying 14 cents per litre extra at the pump and for home fuel. This tax will more than double, to reach 37 cents per litre by 2030. When the new Clean Fuel Standard carbon tax is added in, the total carbon tax per litre will amount to 54 cents. For a 60 litre tank of gas, that is a total of $32.40 of carbon taxes per fill up. 

The carbon tax raises prices for Canadians not just on gas and home fuel, but on food, goods, services, travel – it raises prices on everything.  


Two of three Canadians (65 per cent) holding mortgages today are having difficulties paying them, that is according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC). More than half of these struggling Canadians (55 per cent) are sinking into further debt by having to use their savings to meet their monthly payments.  

There are presently 6.08 million homeowners with mortgages that must financially brace for Canada’s high interest rates of 4-5 per cent through next year and into 2025.


Two in three Canadians who rent (67 per cent) are having difficulties paying their monthly rent, according to the FCAC. More than half of Canadian renters (59 per cent) are using their savings to pay their monthly rent.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2,572. To sign a rental agreement, a person must provide first and last month’s rent – often more than a person makes in one month. So, it is not surprising that the new company Nesturo has become a go-to popular service, providing short-term loans for rental deposits.


According to the Canada’s Food Price Report 2023, statistics published by researchers from universities across Canada, an adult man spends an average of $347 per month on food; an adult woman spends $311 per month; and a family of four spends $1,357 per month. In the last year, these food expenditures have increased more than 10 per cent, and this year food prices are expected to rise another 5 to 7 per cent. 

According to another University of Toronto study, there are almost six million Canadians – 15.9 per cent of all households – experiencing food insecurity in the country. 

Back-to-School Costs 

StatsCan reports back-to-school items have got more expensive in the last year: stationery supplies are up 12.9 per cent, textbooks and supplies up 2.8 per cent, and activities like music lessons or martial arts are up 5.6 per cent. A study by NerdWallet Canada revealed more than one in four Canadian parents (27 per cent) plan to purchase fewer back-to-school supplies than in previous years due to inflation.

StatsCan also reports increased costs for students’ lunch box staples. Breads and rolls are up 8.1 per cent in one year, apples are up 7.8 per cent, and cookies and crackers are up 12.4 per cent. The situation has become dire for the 1.8 million Canadian children who live in households that struggle to afford food. 

A Labour Day Reflection  

Between maintaining a roof over their heads, food on their plates, and gas in their vehicles – and paying nearly half of what they earn to the government taxman, working Canadians have little to rejoice about the fruits of their Labour Day holiday weekend. According to the statistics, Canadians have become a nation of working stiffs challenged to make ends meet.

So, as we contemplate returning to work on Tuesday morning, the last word is given to the overnight sensation Oliver Anthony. This crooner’s primal cry of frustration has become the latest anthem of the working man: Rich Men North of Richmond. That feeling of hopelessness remains long after Anthony has belted out his chorus: “It’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to / For people like me and people like you / Wish I could just wake up and it not be true / But it is, oh, it is”

May you have a wonderful long weekend with your family and friends. My best to you on Tuesday. 

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