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Moving Working Poor Women Out of Poverty - 2012

Resolution Number:200.10.28

Background: Canada as a country prides itself on its social conscience. However, over the past few years the social support for those living close to and below the poverty line has been decreasing while the top 1% of income earners has become wealthier. Thus, a significant income disparity in Canada is evident. The group within Canada who are affected the most are women who are single parents. There is a strong belief within the general Canadian population that the answer to poverty is to get a job. However, the statistics do not support this belief. In 2010, 24% of Canadian women were raising
children on their own and 14% of single older women are poor. In Canada during 2008, 60% of women accounted for the minimum wage earners in the country. From 2007 to 2009 the poverty rate in Ontario increased by 17% from 11.2 to 13.1 of the population (Monsebraaten, The, June 17, 2011). The minimum wage in Ontario as of 2011 (and frozen at the same rate for 2012) is $10.25 per (Canadian Press, Feb. 11, 2011).
In 2007 the Ontario government introduced their Poverty Reduction Strategy focusing on six strategies: (1) by 2012 to raise the Ontario Child Benefit to maximum of $1,310/child/year; (2) to review social assistance, to reduce barriers and increase opportunity; (3) to develop long-term Affordable Housing Strategy; (4) to provide legislation to cover temp help agencies; $10 million/year to hire employment standards officers to reinforcement; continue to raise minimum wage; (5) to phase in full day kindergarten for 4 & 5 year olds between 2010-2015; and (6) to invest $45 million/year for 3 years for dental care for low income Ontarians. To date most actions have been frozen at the 2010 rates, for example the Ontario Child Benefit has only increased to $1,100/child/year; legislation on the Employment Standards Act that is needed to achieve changes for the working poor has not occurred, with the exception of temporary help agency workers; the minimum wage which was increased for several years, has now been frozen for the 3rd year; and action has been taken to expand dental services to only children up to age 18. Single working mothers receive the Ontario Child Benefit and the dental health program for their children. The affordable housing strategy is still geared to both their income and any savings they have. Thus, even if these women live in social
housing, rent is on a sliding scale dependent on her previous year’s income.
The Low Income Line for 2006 for a mother and two children living in a city the size of
London would be $27,945. Therefore, even if a single mother works full-time she will not earn enough to meet the cut-off for basic necessities. Her deficit will be $2,293 if she is not required to take time off for sickness of herself or a child. For each day she is unable to work in a year her deficit increases by $82.
It has been suggested since 2008 that the Poverty Reduction Strategy must include:
“updating the Employment Standards Act to cover precarious workers…” (Campaign 2000). The Ontario government has invested in dental care for children only up to the age of 18 years. Adults living in poverty and the working poor have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, a disease associated with poor dental care.
The current Ontario Employment Standards Act does not require employers to provide
benefits outside of vacation or vacation pay if they hire fewer than 50 employees. If the employer hires more than 50 employees additional benefits are only related to types of leaves that must be provided mostly without pay. However, there is a pattern of employers hiring single women in minimum wage jobs especially in the service sector. The hiring practice is to provide just under full-time hours to prevent the employer being required to provide benefits. REFERENCES
Sarto, C. (2008). What is poverty? Providing clarity for Canada. Fraser, Institute. of Ontario. (2000).
Works Standards Act, 2000.
Government of Ontario (1997). Ontario Works Act S.O. 1997.
Canadian Centre on Policy Alternatives (2009). Women and poverty.
Campaign 2000. (2010). Working, yet poor in Ontario: A call for fair wages and working conditions, and government action.
Social Planning Network of Ontario (2012). Poverty free Ontario: Pulling poverty out by the roots.
Monsebarrten, L. (2011). Ontario poverty rate up since last election., (June 17, 2011).
Nyberg, G. (chair) (2010). Recommendations for an Ontario Income Security review. Report of the
Social Assistance Review Advisory Council/ May.
Matern, R., Mendelson, M., & Oliphant, M. (2009). Developing a deprivation index:The research process. Daily Bread Good Bank and the Caledon Institute of Social Policy. Toronto, ON: Daily Bread.

RESOLUTION: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario urges the Government of Ontario and the Ministry of Labour to undertake a review and upgrading of the Ontario Employment Standards Act to address the disparities for minimum wage earning working women and their leaves, child care and health coverage to meet those provided to similar employees working in establishments hiring more than 50 employees.


©BPW Ontario

Article ID: 4364