Women continue to be among the poorest of the poor in Canada. The risk of poverty is greatest if you are an Aboriginal woman, a recent immigrant, a woman living with disabilities, a single mother, or a senior woman living alone. Paid work is not yet a reliable pathway out of poverty for women.
The Government of Canada has yet to establish a poverty reduction strategy that directly addresses women's and child poverty. Women living in poverty need concrete action.
What does women's poverty in Canada look like?
In 2007, a Canadian woman's annual income was only 63% of that of a man's. In 2008, on average, a Canadian woman earned 71 cents for every dollar a man earned - a decrease of 7 cents since 1999.
When women are poor, children are poor. Almost one in nine children and their families lived in poverty (defined as the 2008 Low Income Cut Off After-tax). One in four children in First Nations communities grow up in poverty.
Women account for 60% of minimum wage workers, and minimum wage rates in most provinces are less than $10 an hour. 40% of women work in precarious jobs with no benefits, no pension, and little or no job security.
Only 39% of unemployed women receive employment insurance, compared to 45% of unemployed men.
Political Will and Poverty Women's poverty in Canada is not inevitable. Governments choose whether or not to allocate public funds for social infrastructure that prevents poverty. Stable and sufficient funding for adequate social assistance, affordable child care, transportation and housing, and access to decent work can all help reduce women's poverty.
The Government of Canada has not committed to a federal strategy that would proactively reduce poverty levels by investing in social infrastructure. Women in Canada continue to experience poverty due to low wages for work, lack of paid work, inaccessible child care and transportation, unaffordable housing, and the experience of ongoing discrimination and violence.
Welfare Cuts Hurt Women Cuts to social assistance rates have hit women hard - especially single mothers and Aboriginal women. Welfare incomes received by these women are so low that the National Council of Welfare Chairperson called them "shameful and morally unsustainable in a rich country."
Social assistance programs lack national standards, and rates have remained unchanged in seven provinces and territories in the past year. In four provinces and territories, rates have risen by only 1-3%.
The poverty rate is at 36% for Aboriginal women; 29% for racialized women; 23% for immigrant women and 26% for women with disabilities. Single mothers had an after-tax poverty rate of 35.6% in 2004. Shockingly, 46.5% of senior women living alone are poor.
* This analysis is based on public information available as of March 2, 2011.
Consider asking your candidate the following questions:
Q. Does your political party have a policy to ensure Canadians have a living wage?
Q. Has your political party taken steps to address the feminization of poverty?