Why You Need To Know About The Second-Hand Economy

As many people will remind you, Canada is heavily reliant upon imported goods and the whims of various foreign markets. But a new Canadian study proposes another way that the average consumer can help stimulate our GDP by keeping money in the country — and enjoy a host of other great benefits in the process.

Most of the complaints about our imports often invoke the spectre of the growing Chinese economy. According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 Canada imported over $48 billion from China alone; in one month, we imported electronic consumer goods like DVD players and home appliances in the range of $1.7 billion. While China remains as our second-highest trade partner (second only to the United States), our country continues to rely on imports over exports. In 2010, we imported approximately $414 billion dollars worth of products — most notably cars, crude petroleum, delivery trucks, and computers — while we only exported close to $405 billion.

economy stats

With these figures alone, Canada’s overall GDP suffers a negative net export balance of 8,999, with more money flowing out of our economy (and into those of other nations) than money flowing in. And our personal shopping choices have a part to play in this process too (in other words, it isn’t all about big government and industrial spending). Since we rely so heavily upon manufactured and consumer goods, every time we buy a new product — whether it’s a pair of running shoes, sunglasses, a smartphone, or a laptop computer — we stimulate more imports and send our money over the border, or overseas.

Nevertheless, there are other ways ordinary Canadians can improve our net export value and keep more money in the country. According to a new study called the Kijiji Second-Hand Economy Index, conducted by Kijiji in conjunction with researchers fromthe Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and the University of Toronto, Canadians spend approximately $200 billion each year on brand new products that are considered “durable” or “semi-durable,” and therefore could have been reused, refurbished, up-cycled, repaired, or resold to other Canadians instead of being thrown away.

Revenue made (or saved) by selling, trading, repairing, or donating used goods is the substance of this “second-hand” market, and it seems as though Canadians are already substantially invested in this alternative economy: the Index shows that we re-sell $30 billion worth of goods each year, or 15 percent of the amount spent on new items. This inter-Canadian trade amounts to an annual injection of $34 billion into our GDP, keeping the money in the country and preventing more losses through constant importing.

The major take-away from such findings is the potential for growth. If more Canadians felt compelled to participate in an alternative economy, we might see even more benefits for both individuals and the country. Passing on used items means considerable savings per household, a majorly reduced impact on landfills and the environment (helping to reduce our distressing rate of consumption and ecological footprint), higher employment rates due to new jobs, a sense of community and altruism, support for local repair shops, and even more.

You can read more about the positive impacts and implications of this landmark study by heading to http://secondhandeconomy.kijiji.ca, where you can also download a full PDF of the co-authored report. Take the quiz found on the homepage to test how well you rank compared to other Canadians on what’s being called the “second-hand economy impact score.” Your results may surprise you—and encourage you to get more involved in donating, reusing, and reselling to your friends, neighbours, and community.

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