Alberta’s economy is undoubtedly one of the strongest in Canada with its large production of conventional crude oil and petrochemicals. In recent years, the booming economy has created a high rate of growth with around 4 million people now calling Alberta home. The job opportunities in the oil and gas sector are seemingly endless and the lifestyle of many Albertans reflects that of its successful economy. The average weekly earnings in Alberta is estimated at $1,131. This amount is higher than the weekly earnings of any other province in Canada.
So, in a province as rich and prosperous as Alberta, why are women more likely to be vulnerable to poverty? There are several factors that are contributing to the rising number of women finding themselves living below the line of poverty. For instance, many women may chose to work in non-standard jobs as domestic responsibilities are often a huge determining factor. They may chose part-time or seasonal jobs to allow for more flexibility but these jobs are low paying and offer no security. As such, most poor women in Alberta may be juggling several jobs but cannot earn enough to lift themselves out of poverty.
In an article written by Leah Kelly, Social Issues Coordinator of Women’s Center Calgary states that, women earn 68% of what men earn and over two thirds of part time workers are women. Further marginalized are aboriginal women, women with disabilities, visible minority women, immigrant women, post-incarcerated women and lesbian women.
For instance, according to the fact sheet Women and Poverty – Third Edition released by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW) immigrant women between the ages of 25-44 who have a post secondary degree and are working full-time will earn $14,000 less than a Canadian born woman. Aside from overt racism, Canada’s lack of recognition of foreign credentials has had a detrimental effect on highly educated women immigrating to Canada in the hopes of becoming financially successful. These women may flock to Alberta where demand for educated professionals is soaring only to be faced with insurmountable hurdles which may lead to their financial struggles.
Why do Albertan’s need to care about women in poverty? “Helping a women in poverty is helping a child in poverty” (Canadian Women’s Foundation). According to the Alberta Poverty Progress Profile, one in 10 Albertan children live in poverty. This equates to about 73,000 children.
Marginalization, lack of affordable decent childcare, low paying jobs with no benefits or security and overwhelming domestic responsibilities are just small factors that may keep a mother from finding a secure, well-paying job that can eventually help her and her family gain the ability to rise above poverty.
As prosperous as Alberta may be, poverty is a serious issue in this province. Poverty can take several forms and may even be very difficult to detect which is why discussing this issue is vital. There are several organizations that are advocating and providing services to women in need but the greatest support comes from Albertans themselves. The stigma of poverty must be erased in Alberta before the province is willing to call itself truly successful.