Women and Poverty: A Report by the National Council of Welfare

Publisher:  National Council of Welfare, Ottawa, Canada
Year Published:  1979  
Pages:  69pp  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX1083

Abstract:  This report examines the situation of poor women, why they are poor and ways of improving their situation. The majority of Canadian women are subject to becoming poor. The report states that three out of every five poor adults in Canada are women and that one woman out of every six is living in poverty. Elderly widows, who have worked hard all their lives with no pay or pension plans, are the poorest sector in Canada today.

Statistics show that of widows and separated women, 54 per cent have an income below the poverty line; 44 percent of single mothers are poor; and, 34 per cent of never-married women living on their own are poor. The report analyses the situation of poor women with case studies on the basis of the above categories of family status.

The authors state that in real terms, the position of women in our society has changed little over the past few years. More women are now in the labor force, but the proportion of female workers in low skilled/low-paying jobs has not changed. Sex stereotyping in our education system still portrays women in the background performing domestic chores. Women's educational levels are becoming higher, however the majority are still streamed into "women's jobs".

Although the majority of women will marry, marriage is not a relationship of economic equals and does not necessarily provide economic security for women. Some men refuse to provide adequately for their families and many cannot. If the marriage breaks down, or the husband dies the woman has great difficulty in providing for herself. If she has dependent children she is often forced to accept welfare which is both inadequate and humiliating.

The report concludes with concrete suggestions for both long and short term solutions to women's poverty. It suggests that the government act to change the damaging effects of sexual stereotyping in education and the media, reform family law, ensure economic equality in the labor market, increase support to day-cares and to improve social security programs for disadvantaged women.

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