A new report by economist Eric Howe shows just how much Saskatchewan’s economy is foregoing by not closing the Aboriginal education gap. The amount is staggering—the lost benefits are greater than all sales of potash in the history of Saskatchewan.
In a province where our greatest natural resource is thought to be potash, this research sheds new light on what we thought we knew to be true. An even greater resource is Aboriginal people—and this is a resource that we have not developed. By closing the Aboriginal education gap, Howe notes, we could be looking at a first-ever made-in-Saskatchewan economic boom with greater impact and permanence than the natural resource or technological booms of the past.
“Closing Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal education gap would have the direct effect of yielding $90 billion in benefits,” said Howe. “To put this into context, the potash industry is universally understood to be critical to the economy of our province. However, the total production of potash in Saskatchewan back to the start of the industry is… four-fifths of $90 billion.”
“This report is an eye opener,” said Glenn Lafleur, Vice Chair of the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI). “Most people understand the importance of education to earnings in a general sort of way. What this report does is to show just how much, in dollar figures, that benefit is worth.”
In the three-part report, Howe notes that without an education Aboriginal people earn dramatically less than non-Aboriginal people, but education causes earnings to catch up. Thus, Aboriginal earnings increase more with education than for non-Aboriginals. Not only are there benefits to the individual, but also significant benefits to society. Howe combines the benefits of bridging the Aboriginal education gap to come up with the $91.1billion figure.
Howe also examines the socioeconomic benefit of Saskatchewan’s only Métis professional degree program, the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP). He concludes that although the size of the Aboriginal education gap is large and will take decades to bridge, it would have been larger without the contributions that SUNTEP has made with its 975 Aboriginal graduates.
- Report available for download at www.gdins.org/bridging_the_gap.html
Howe is an economist and Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Saskatchewan whose specialties include Aboriginal social policy research and the economy of the Canadian prairies. The Gabriel Dumont Institute engaged Professor Howe to conduct the research.
GDI was incorporated in 1980 to serve the needs of Saskatchewan’s Métis community. The Institute has trained over 1,000 Aboriginal teachers and is one of the top two producers of practical nurses in Saskatchewan. Recent GDI initiatives in the health and trades sectors have resulted in dozens of employer partnerships and hundreds of real jobs for Aboriginal people.