Alberta Women Are Falling Behind: Gender issues met with "deafening silence" in government

Whether there's a boom or a bust, the economic reality facing women in Alberta is that they are falling further and further behind men.

A new study by the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute and the Womanspace Resource Centre in Lethbridge shows that the fight for rights and equality is far from over in this province. Nationally, Conservative government actions have stalled progress on women's issues, according to a report by the Canadian Labour Congress and several women's groups.

Gathering data from a variety of national sources, including Statistics Canada, the study shows that women in Alberta experience disproportionate levels of poverty and low wages. The median income for Alberta women working full year, full time is 66 per cent of that earned by men. The gender wage gap is worse in Alberta than in all other provinces. The boom years have made things worse, not better, for Alberta's women. In 1993 women working full time earned 71 per cent of what men earned.

Meanwhile, single mothers who rely on social assistance in Alberta receive the least amount of support of anyone in Canada. The situation is just as grim for female lone parents and their families, with 24 per cent being categorized as low income in Alberta, compared to the national rate of 16 per cent.

This situation has been met with a deafening silence in Alberta. This is the only jurisdiction in Canada where women have no formal voice in government, with neither a ministry nor an advisory council on the status of women. The Alberta Federation of Labour calls on the Alberta government to recognize that a high wage gap between men and women has negative consequences for the public and private sectors, including lost productivity, low retention of skilled labour and high levels of poverty. It is time for the government to follow the lead of other provinces - which have fewer financial resources - and tackle this issue.

Nationally, gender-equality issues have slowed under the Conservative government, according to a report by the Canadian Labour Congress and several women's rights groups presented to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

The report, called Reality Check: Women in Canada, criticizes the federal government for eliminating a proposed $5-billion national child-care and early-learning program, for closing 12 of 16 Status of Women offices across the country and for cutting resources for gender-equality projects.

"Half-hearted gestures regarding the possibility of changing our national anthem to reflect gender equality are no substitute for concrete policies to end inequalities," says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "On one hand, for a few days some federal Conservatives say gender equality in the anthem is important, but on the other the government eliminates the phrase gender equality from the mandate of the national Status of Women office. The government pays lip service to the issue, but its actions speak far louder than its word."

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Media contact:

Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer @ 780-483-3021 or 780-720-8945 (cell)

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