Market Overview

OFL Statement: Women Are the Majority of the Majority


TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 2, 2012) - The global Occupy movement of the past year has drawn significant attention to the vast and expanding inequality between the richest one percent in society and the rest of us - the 99 percent. Women make up slightly over 50 percent of the Canadian population but when it comes to wealthiest Canadians, men are vastly over-represented. In the 500 largest and most influential companies in Canada, men hold 93.8 percent of the top earning positions and make up 99 percent of the highest paid 100 chief executive officers at publicly traded companies. When it comes to those who are economically disenfranchised corporate greed, women are the majority of the majority.

Even among average wage earners, women continue to fair poorly. Among those with full-time employment, women continue to take home only $0.70 for every dollar earned by men and racialized women earn only $0.60 compared to non-racialized men and 16 percent less than racialized men. In so many ways in our economy, women continue to find themselves among the poorest of the poor, especially women raising children in single-parent families, who are almost five times more likely to be poor than those in two-parent families. This gender gap nearly triples for older women who are living on their own and is magnified among women in all of the most vulnerable populations: Aboriginal people, people from racialized communities, recent immigrants, persons with disabilities and so many others. As one report puts it, "Gender creates a cleavage of vulnerability that cuts across all other groups."

Later this month, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty will table an austerity budget based on the nearly 400 public spending cuts recommended by banker Don Drummond in his recent report to the Ontario Government. These cuts will lead to dramatic job loss and decimate the very social services that are designed to help struggling Ontarians get back on their feet. They will likely hit health care and education the hardest, but their impact will be felt across the board. However, these cuts will have the most damaging effect on women and people from equity-seeking groups in our society.

"Many prominent economists have characterized the recession of 2008 as the 'he' recession because job loss was most significant in manufacturing and other sectors dominated by male workers. However, government cuts to public services could spiral Ontario into a new recession - a 'she' recession - that targets women's jobs in the public sector and vital services that so many women rely on," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "Premier McGuinty is labouring under the misguided notion that it is possible to cut your way to prosperity. What Ontarians desperately need is a job creation strategy."

International Women's Day (IWD) started in 1911 and is recognized annually around the world on March 8 to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. This year, IWD is a time for women and men to fight together against an austerity agenda that threatens our social and economic fabric.

An austerity-driven budget will result in a major loss of financial, administrative and secretarial jobs throughout the public service, where women make up 8 out of every 10 workers. Cuts to child care, full-day kindergarten and special education programs will not only hurt the women who dominate those professions, but it will devastate the hundreds of thousands of women who disproportionately benefit from them. On average, women rely more heavily on social services than men because they tend to be poorer and because they are more likely to take on caring roles and responsibilities that have reduced their earnings capacity. Women are also more likely to help their families cope with the loss of public services through unpaid work, sometimes having to give up their own employment opportunities to do so - for example, when childcare or after school care services are no longer available.

"In cities and towns all across Ontario, women are at the forefront of opposition to cuts that threaten our collective economic recovery. Our mothers and grandmothers worked hard to win progress in women's equality - from wage gains to child care. These gains were not the cause of the recession and women shouldn't be made to pay for the folly of the financial sector," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. "At International Women's Day events across the province this year, women will be raising their voices against economic inequality and challenging an austerity agenda that puts corporate greed ahead of human needs."

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario and is Canada's largest provincial labour body.

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