Alberta receives C, but is that fair?

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It’s that time of year where report cards are out, and we’re all taking notice. Today’s report card focuses on the strengths and weaknesses in the socio-economic performance of Canada and its provinces and territories. Alberta received a C, but that grade doesn’t speak to the overall socio-economic health of our province and of its inhabitants. Those living in Alberta who are women, ethnically diverse or a person with a disability have a much poorer showing on their quality of life scorecards than their Caucasian male counterparts.

The How Canada Performs: A Report Card on Canada pointed out the depressing reality of Alberta’s gender wage gap, 24.6 per cent, which was the third-highest gender age gap among all 26 regions in the report. It needs to be pointed out that the report only identifies a few measures on wage discrepancy, but fails to account for the whole story. The wage gap is exacerbated by the resource sector with many high paid, male-dominated careers, labour force participation from mothers is sensitive to accessible and affordable childcare and the devaluing of domestic jobs which women are primarily responsible for.

A different report from Parkland Institute in 2016 calculates the gender income gap for women and men working full-time, full-year as closer to 41 per cent which means that women on average make $31,100 less than men. Women make 41 per cent less than men on top of working a ‘double day’ when you consider the domestic duties and caregiving that occur in addition to a career. Those domestic duties, often known as ‘women’s work,’ equal to about 35 hours of unpaid work weekly. Compare that to the men who only bear about 17 hours for the same work.

All in all, it seems like a ‘D’ for Alberta on the gender wage gap might even be too high. There is a clear argument that Alberta is failing women who want equal pay for equal work.

Moving onto another bone of contention on the ‘A’ grade Alberta received for its poverty work. To start, sure, Alberta has a low percentage of our total population that lives in poverty, but that completely overshadows the living costs in the province which are so dependent on the resource sector. Calgary, in particular, is known for its high housing costs when the resource sector is booming and how unaffordable the city becomes with high wage earners driving rent sky high.

In case you’re not convinced, let’s look at the facts from Enough for All Calgary:

  • In Calgary about 1 in 10 people live in poverty
  • 1 in 5 Calgarians are concerned about not having enough money for food
  • 1 in 3 Calgarians are concerned about not having enough money for housing
  • 48 per cent of Canadians would struggle to pay their bills if their paycheck was delayed by a week.

These statistics paint a fuller picture of poverty in Alberta. We also know that when women live in poverty, so do their children and when we talk about poverty, the gender wage gap and our ‘score’ we need to speak honestly and represent the facts.