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Family Relations and Human Development
FRHD 3090
Michelle Preyde

Chapter 1 – Poverty in Canada Today There is a rich, rich, rich country. The trouble is, it’s too rich at the top and too poor at the bottom – Senator David Croll, 1990  For years government agencies, social researchers, and advocacy groups have struggled to arrive at meaningful standards of impoverishment – level of family income, cost or housing, food, clothing, fuel, etc. – that distinguish the poor  Canada has not arrived at an ‘official’ definition of poverty and relies, uneasily, on Stats Canada’s low-income cut- offs (LICOs) to identify the poor  ‘A market basket approach’ is currently the centre of heated debate – analyst’s determine the necessities the average Canadian family needs for economic c and social existence (transportation, shelter, clothing, personal care, household needs, furniture, telephone, reading, recreation, schools supplies, etc.) o Families unable to afford the market basket are considered ‘poor’  The poverty line according to the market basket measure (1997) for a family of four in a large city is $25,647, in contrast to the LICO of $32,377 (pre-tax)  Definitions of poverty are always subject to political pressures and agendas  The best-known and more widely used measure continues to the Stats Canada definition (adopted in 1973; reset in 1992) that establishes income cut-offs below which people are considered to life in ‘straitened circumstances’ o Cut-offs based on the notion that poor families are those whose size of income requires them to spend more than 54.7% of their gross income on food, clothing, and shelter, which leaves few or no funds for transportation, health, personal care, education, household operation, recreation, or insurance  Vary in terms of the size of the household and the size of the area of residence (ore than 500,000, 100,000-499,999, and so on), which results in 35 separate LICOs  Stats Canada leaves out all Natives living n reserves, institutional inmates, residents of Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, and the homeless. It tells us nothing about the duration of poverty o 31% less expensive to live in rural areas – shelter costs are lower, but transportation costs are higher. Further access to subsidized public services such as child care, health services, and education, as well as to competitively priced goods, is likely restricted in many rural areas  Rural costs probably about 88% of those in large urban centers, but there is considerable differences between cities  General problems attached to Stats Canada measures of poverty – like many measures, reinforce the notion that there are 2 kinds of people – poor and non-poor  easily translated into ‘us’ and ‘them’ and sustains stereotypes of the poor as somehow different and, possibly, defective  Recent research examining low-income patterns between 1982 and 1993 found that most people had only one spell of low-income within this time period and it lasted on average 2 years o Unemployment, illness, accident, or disability may, even in the course of a month and cause it to tip the balance o Over the course of a lifetime, many key factors can trigger a slide into low income and poverty (notably, gender, age, marital status, and number of children)’  Sources of income for the poor vary considerably – 19988, basic welfare assistance for a single parent with one child ranged from $11,300 in Saskatchewan to $13,695 in Ontario, but in each instance this benefit would place the individual well below the Stats Canada LICOs o In BC, total welfare income provided only 38% of the poverty-line income for a single employable individual and 61% for a single parent with one child – being reliant on welfare for economic survival means living in poverty  Many poor Canadians = ‘the working poor’ because, although they have paid employment, their earnings from work are below the LICOs – paid employment is no guarantee that poverty will be avoided o When worker is single parent, only one of parent in family is employed, work is part-time, contract, short- term, irregular, low-wage, unskilled, and when dependent children in home, employment frequently fails to provide an escape from poverty – families and individuals with low levels of education are also more likely to be poor The Feminization of Poverty  Canadian women are particularly at risk of being poor – refers to the fact that women in many industrialized Western nations as well as in developing countries, are more likely to be poor than men  Women comprise 57% of Canadian adults are poor – at every age level  Much to do with traditional gender ideologies, inequities in the labour force, and flaws in our family law and rstponsendto marriage breakdown  1 and 2 waves of the women’s movement advanced education for women, and the reduction in family size, among other factors, undermined the traditional sexual division of labour o Increasing numbers of Canadians have found they simply cannot survive on the uncertain income of a single male (or female) breadwinner  Failure of wages to keep p ace with inflation, increases in taxation, high rates of unemployment, and the loss of high- paying industrial and resources-extraction jobs have made the male-bread-winner family increasingly anachronistic  Women are still encouraged to focus their energies on marriage and motherhood; employment is still less well paid than men’s, with full0time women workers earning about 73% of male wages; patterns of sexual and gender harassment continue to maintain female job ghettos  Women still occupationally segregated into work with lower wages, less prestige, and less opportunity for advancement – likely to be further exacerbated if a woman is a recent immigrant or disabled or a member of a visible minority  Almost all women, regardless of race, ethnicity, or disability, are still considered responsible for most childcare, family caregiving, and housework. In absence of adequate child care, and parental leave policies, juggling the conflicting demands of child care, housework, and paid work often means costly interruptions in labour force participation and/or peripheral employment as a part-time, casual, or contract employee  Being employed in ‘women’s work’ or taking several years ff to care for young children can translate into disaster when marriages end in divorce, when women face long years of widowhood, or when women become single parents  An astounding 57.1% of single-parent moths are poor, in contract to poverty rate of 11.9% of couples with children  Without a male bread-winner in the family and with inadequate, or non-existent support payments, many women cannot provide sufficient income for their families  Single-parent mothers under age 25 have a staggering poverty rate of 93.3% and single-parent mothers with children under age 7 have rates as high as 80.2%  The Economic Council of Canada’s 5-year survey of Canadian incomes found women’s incomes dropped by about 39% when they separated or divorced and thereafter rose only slightly. 3 years after marriage breakup, women’s income was still 27% below earlier level. Men’s income in contract, increased by average of 7  Unattached elderly women face higher
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