October is End Poverty Month

Did you know that October is End Poverty Month here in Calgary?

At the Women’s Centre, over 52% of women who come to our space identify as living in poverty. Because of this, poverty reduction and alleviation are at the heart of much of what we do, and End Poverty Month is an important time for us to talk about women’s poverty in Alberta – what it looks like, and how we can work to reduce it.

We know that poverty affects 1 in 10 Calgarians, and it’s impacts are wide-ranging. Here are some statistics on the current state of poverty in Calgary and Alberta:

  • An estimated 127,000 (1 in 10) Calgarians, including 22,000 children are living in poverty, creating a long-term impact on our entire community.
  • One in five Calgarians are worried about not having enough money for food.
  • Alberta has the largest pay gap in Canada. Women working full-time, full-year earn on average only 63% of what their male counterparts do, or $31,100 less than men on average (and as much as $35,000 less in Calgary).
  • 30% of Aboriginal women and 21% of racialized women live below the poverty line, as well as 19% of immigrant women.
  • Single mothers are much more likely to live in poverty: 80% of all lone-parent families are headed by women, and lone mothers are three times more likely to live in poverty than lone fathers. Their poverty rate is a staggering 37% across Canada.
  • Almost half of all Albertan women working part-time say they are forced to do so because they can’t find child care.

At the Women’s Centre, we know that women’s poverty is different than men’s poverty. Over the years, the Women’s Centre Social Policy Committee has developed recommendations for poverty reduction with a gendered lens – an examination of poverty that factors gender into the equation. These recommendations are a set of policy recommendations that work to reduce poverty for women in Alberta, a move we know leads to strong women, strong families, and strong communities!

On October 1, Alberta’s minimum wage will go up to $15/hour, making it the highest minimum wage in Canada and yet still below the living wage for Calgary. While wages are not the only factor in reducing women’s poverty for women across the province, raising the minimum wage in time for End Poverty Month is very appropriate.  There is more work to be done for truly equitable wages in Alberta, but it is important to note raising the minimum wage is a strong step in ensuring all Albertans are able to meet their basic needs and save for their futures.

The Women’s Centre has not only called for the implementation of a living wage, but also for a number of policies and programs that would build a more equitable society. Higher social assistance rates, more affordable child care, better access to subsidized housing and an overall stronger social infrastructure are all key to reducing and alleviating the complex issue of poverty.

Societies that value and promote the inclusion of all members, particularly the most vulnerable, enjoy greater social, educational, and financial stability. Women who are also part of further marginalized groups, including Aboriginal women, women of colour, immigrant and refugee women, single mothers, lesbian women, women who have been incarcerated, and women living with disabilities, face additional barriers and therefore struggle with even greater financial challenges

Poverty also forces people to make tough choices and puts many of us in impossible positions. To learn more about how the Women’s Centre works for poverty reduction, visit our website, or check out our recommendations in “A Gendered Analysis for Poverty Reduction in Alberta.” We hope you will join us in continuing the conversation this month, exploring the ways in which poverty impacts women uniquely, and how we can work to reduce poverty within our province.

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