This guest blog was written by Mike Marin and Anouk Dey. It originally appeared in the Toronto Star on February 24. The authors are part of a team that produced the report Prospering Together (in English and in French).
What do the Occupy Movement and Canadian software giant OpenText have in common? Most people, including the campers and coders themselves, would probably say very little. But, while the message coming out of Robson Square and St. James Park last fall was about economic justice, it is highly relevant to economic growth as well.
Canada’s high levels of inequality and poverty don’t just erode social cohesion, but also jeopardize our ability to succeed in the knowledge-based economy.
Last week, the Drummond report correctly observed that, in the 21st century, “education and innovation will be the key for Ontarians to be prosperous.” But it is important to recognize that “education and innovation” aren’t just the product of classrooms and laboratories; they are nurtured through favourable social conditions that are incompatible with elevated levels of inequality and poverty.
There is substantial evidence that “human capital” — the knowledge and skills that make people innovative — is socially determined. For example, children in less equal countries have lower math and literacy scores than their peers in more equal countries. In addition, the crucial period for human capital development is early childhood, and making the most of it depends largely on family circumstances.
But human capital isn’t just about intellectual ability. A person’s health is also an important factor, both in terms of educational outcomes and productivity. Thus inequality and poverty, which are both associated with poor health outcomes, are worrying from an innovation standpoint as well. Likewise, studies show that a person’s social relationships — which are a source of mentorship, employment, and investment — are negatively affected by inequality and poverty. ...Read more