Mar 4, 2024

International Women’s Day: Investing in women to accelerate progress

Poverty remains a significant threat to gender equality in Canada. In 2023, about 11.4% of Canadian women lived in poverty compared to 9.7% of Canadian men. The experiences of poverty for women can be harsher, deeper, and more prolonged – leading to a phenomenon known as gendered poverty.

The ramifications of poverty, economic unpredictability, and income insecurity directly affect quality of life, safety, overall welfare, and access to fundamental necessities such as food, shelter, healthcare, and the capacity to provide for dependents.

Poverty among women stems from the higher burden of unpaid work, the lack of affordable childcare, and interconnected forms of prejudice and obstacles rooted in sexism and gender-based discrimination. Additionally, women face a gender pay gap – in 2019, the average individual income for women was $43,010, compared to $60,680 for men.

Those who face multiple barriers are at higher risk of poverty, such as Indigenous women, racialized women, immigrant women, women with disabilities, seniors, and single mothers. For example, 31.3% of lone parent families headed by women live in poverty, as do 16.9% of senior women, and 15.4% of women who immigrated to Canada between 2016 and 2019.

Women living in poverty face heightened vulnerability to gender-based violence, often finding it challenging to break free from abusive situations due to economic constraints.

On International Women’s Day and throughout Women’s History Month, it’s critical that we acknowledge the importance of addressing gendered poverty to not only break the cycle of poverty for women, but also their children, dependents, and future generations.

Improved outcomes for women translate to societal benefits. In fact, advancing gender equality and increasing women’s workforce participation could potentially bolster Canada’s GDP by $150 billion by 2026. On the contrary, perpetuating income disparities and poverty poses significant costs to taxpayers and governments as a 2019 analysis by Feed Ontario revealed that poverty costs the province between $27 to $33 billion annually, underlining the financial burden of inaction.

While Daily Bread commends all orders of government for the progress made to date with the rollout of the Canada Early Learning and Childcare Act (i.e., $10/day childcare) to enable more women to participate in the labour force, we call on governments to increase investments in economic and workforce development opportunities for women, supportive and culturally responsive housing for women, meaningfully address gender-based violence.

This International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, while we celebrate women, we will continue to advocate for investments in women to accelerate progress for all.

Click here to learn more about Daily Bread’s advocacy work.

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