COVID19 is setting women in Alberta back decades.
In April, women’s participation in the workforce fell to its lowest level since the 80s. SINCE THE 80’s! I am both horrified and not surprised.
Women, especially women of colour, are disproportionately affected by the COVID 19 pandemic overall but when you take into consideration the fields in which women are most heavily represented, the picture, especially in Alberta, becomes even more ~concerning~ as Dr. Hinshaw would say.
Alberta has the largest gender income gap in Canada, and the UCP’s hamfisted handling of our economy and their horrific pandemic response has only made things worse.
Their attacks on public sector employees, who happen to be predominantly women, have done immense and likely lasting harm to our communities.
Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare aides and healthcare support staff have been traumatized and belittled while they work to keep Albertans alive as our Minister of Health calls them over paid and waffles between laying them off, privatizing their jobs, and crying in their driveways.
Their austerity budget has left schools and childcare centers unprepared to manage the weight of contact tracing, providing PPE, funding for the hiring of emergency staff and ensuring a safe environment for students and employees and there appears to be no plan in place to improve the situation or keep childcare or schools open safely.
Teachers, childcare workers and educational support staff have been doing their best to support our children without proper PPE. They’ve had their budgets cut, their pensions stolen, their characters attacked and their safety put at risk.
This pandemic has exposed a lack of concrete protections for workers, especially for workers in sectors where women are often employed. This is particularly true of workers that have been deemed “essential” during this pandemic. Part time and low income employees have always been vulnerable to the imbalances of power in the workforce but the UCP changes to the Employment Standards Code made things for employees in Alberta significantly worse, allowing employers to deny employees overtime pay, reduce holiday pay and reduce break duration.
Customer service and retail workers have been front and center making sure that people have access to the things they need and want but they are still being undervalued and underpaid. Working in positions that offer no benefits, no paid sick days, no job security, and unpredictable schedules. Some of these jobs even run the risk of violence and harassment, for example, the bar employee who had a glass broken on her face for trying to enforce masking requirements at her job.
Women are twice as likely to work part time as men, in fact, the majority of part time positions in Alberta are held by women, and when women were asked why they worked in part time positions, 27% listed childcare as a reason for working part time.
A lack of accessible, affordable childcare is a significant barrier to women entering and remaining in the workforce. When the Government of Canada announced their plan to invest in a Canada wide, early learning childcare system using Quebec’s affordable childcare program as a model, it seemed only reasonable that the Government of Alberta would be on board, our economy sure could use the help, but unsurprisingly it seems that Jason Kenney just wants to take the Federal money and do whatever harebrained thing he wants with it. “Alberta should simply receive the federal funding, and we can design a program that works and fits for Albertans” said Travis Toews. Keep in mind that what Kenney and his crew think “works and fits for Albertans” has thus far been “reallocating” funding for children and families without disclosing where that funding is being “reallocated” to.
The attitude of this government toward the women of our province has been nothing short of disturbing. As I’ve discussed in other posts, they haven’t even tried to hide their contempt for us. From attempting to strip us of our medical rights to targeting women’s economic options through dismantling social policy aimed at supporting families, for example, ending the $25 a day childcare pilot program the UCP has made it clear that they don’t value or respect women.
Despite all that, the women of Alberta have worked tirelessly to keep this province afloat, even if we aren’t compensated for our work. The majority of the burden of unpaid labour was carried by women in Alberta even before the pandemic. COVID has added even more to our workload, home-schooling children who would normally be in school, more household and emotional labour as families spend more time at home and more mental and emotional labour as children navigate the challenges of living through a deadly global pandemic, parents and grandparents are at risk and family and friends are exposed to a frightening sickness.
Women are carrying this unequal and unreasonable burden.
It’s time for a feminist approach to our economic recovery and future growth. In part 1 of this series I talked about the importance of removing barriers to employment, such as the high cost of childcare, for women and how removing barriers means also examining the male-centric system that our workforce operates within.
We need to work to change more than policy, we need to change the societal perceptions that allow policies rooted in misogyny, racism, classism and bigotry to exist in the first place.
If you like what I’m doing, consider buying me a coffee so I can keep doing it 🙂