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Gendering the crisis

February 20, 2009

[The following in from PAR-L:]

Women and the Economic Crisis

Statement

Government actions should never increase economic or social inequality, especially during an economic crisis. The economic recovery plans currently on the table fail to offer solutions that address the needs of women and diverse groups of women. Women’s and men’s realities are significantly different.

To attain true equality, we need to take these differences into account. We urge our federal and provincial governments to conduct gender-inclusive analysis of government policies and budgets. It is essential to evaluate the repercussions of existing or proposed policies, laws, budgets and programs on women and men, and diverse groups of women and men.

There is more than one way to revitalize the economy. We are calling for initiatives that do not add to the existing inequalities between men and women.

In this perspective, we ask our governments:

  • to invest in social infrastructure, that is, social programs like child care, housing, education and healthcare,
  • to guarantee an adequate income for all,
  • to maintain the progressive rate structure for personal and business income taxes and not reduce taxes.

Signatories:

Regroupement féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick
New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
New Brunswick Child Care Coalition
Business and Professional Women Greater Moncton
Canadian Federation of University Women
Club des femmes de carrière du Sud-Est du Nouveau-Brunswick
Collectif des femmes du Nouveau-Brunswick
NBFL Women’s Committee
Fédération des femmes acadiennes et francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick
Femmes équité Atlantique
Common Front for Social Justice

Our priorities

  • Invest in social infrastructure, that is, social programs like child care, housing, education and healthcare.
    • The population will need these social supports more than ever.
    • Many women work in the public sector, source of many female-dominated jobs. A one billion dollar investment in the public sector creates 20,000 good jobs.
    • Physical infrastructure is important, but social infrastructure should get an adequate share of public spending.
    • Public sector services should not be transferred to the community sector to save on labour costs. That increases the wage gap between women and men and reduces accountability, confidentiality and fair access for all. Community sector employees, mostly women, are frequently underpaid because of a chronic lack of financial resources.
    • Federal government transfers to provinces and municipalities must be maintained to provide long-term funding for health, postsecondary education, training, equalization payments and other public services and programs.
    • Investments are needed in social housing. That would create employment while fulfilling an urgent need for modest income women.
    • This is an opportunity to build a childcare system that will contribute to long-term economic development. Each dollar invested brings returns of $2 to $17.
  • Guarantee an adequate income for all.
    • The situation of women and men living in poverty must not deteriorate.
    • Social assistance rates and policies should allow a person to live in dignity. Current social assistance rates in N.B. only give beneficiaries between 19% and 41% of the amount determined to be the poverty line.
    • The minimum wage should be at least $10/hour in N.B. A person working 40 hours a week at the current minimum wage earns $16,120 a year, or $2,027 less than the low-income cutoff for communities of 30,000 to 99,000 inhabitants.
    • Pay equity legislation must be adopted in the public and private sectors. Female-dominated jobs are too often underpaid. As pay equity is a human right, it should not be relegated to the collective bargaining process.
    • The number of hours required to qualify for Employment Insurance should be reduced to 360.
  • Maintain the progressive rate structure for personal and business income taxes and not reduce taxes.
    • Income tax represents a sharing of our resources and funds essential programs like healthcare and education, allowing us to maintain a high standard of living and mitigate the effects of poverty.
    • Reducing income tax for higher income levels benefits only one group: people with higher incomes! There is no guarantee that the tax savings will translate into local purchases or investments.
    • Income tax for businesses and individuals must remain progressive. We absolutely oppose the idea of a flat income tax rate with an increased sales tax. This would increase the burden on the poorest, who would end up paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes of all sorts because they are unable to save. Women as a group would shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost of social services, since their annual income is much lower than that of men.
    • We are not in favour of income splitting. It is a costly measure that only benefits couples with one high income partner.
    • It is fair and appropriate that low-income men and women pay no income tax.
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2 Comments
  1. February 21, 2009 10:35 am

    I regret that your take on income splitting is actually so poorly researched from what I can tell. From our studies nearly all households in Canada would benefit since the current system takes not only income but difference between incomes. For three homes each taking in $60,000, the one that has earners making $30,000 and $30,000 pays least tax, the household where earners make $40,000 and $20,000 pays more and the one earning $60,000 and zero pays most, often nearly 40% more. This unequal tax based entirely on the way the money is made not on its amount. The ones who suffer are the lower earners who are seen therefore as less worthy and not equal contributors. The failure of the tax system to recognize that all 3 households have the same ability to pay tax is regrettable and unfair and it forces the lower earner to be seen as dependant. Since the lower earner often is a woman earning less because she takes time away from earning to be a caregiver to the young or sick, this is in effect a penalty on caregiving and a penalty on women

    In the 3rd wave of women’s equality rights, many of us believe strongly that the liberation is not to get women out of the home since that continues to degrade the care role, but to permit them to do whichever paid or unpaid roles they feel they should do. To give women that freedom is the real goal and sadly forcing them out of the home, forbidding income splitting, preferentially funding daycare over other care styles is an agenda very much of the 1960s that still degraded the care role.

    It is possible to have income splitting be progressive. The US does.
    It is possible to have income splitting apply to single parents. France does.

    It is possible to have income splitting be optional.- it’s like the abortion debate- if you don’t believe in it, don’t have an abortion but if you do you can. Surely we women can permit a law that says if you don’t want to say you share income, declare yourselves as single earners. If you do share income with someone and the total salaries operate to give you and someone else the same standard of living, if your pay has to stretch over more than one person, and you want the tax department to notice that, then declare yourself as one to split income.

    I am frustrated that some women’s groups claim to value wome but still devalue their care role. It is an irony

  2. February 21, 2009 10:52 am

    Beverley, a clarification: I cannot take credit for the material posted here. As I wrote at the top of the post, it came via the PAR-L listserv, and the eleven signatory groups are listed within the body of the post. I posted it because although I am not an economist, it sounds most reasonable to me. I cannot see that these principles and priorities would “force women out of the home,” as you suggest; they would, it seems to me, go a long way in giving women options, options that are being eroded in the current economic crisis and governments’ focus on sectors of the economy that traditionally employ many more men than women.

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