Common Front for Social Justice

February 13, 2009

On this Valentine's Day

But what we really want is to get out of POVERTY

"On Valentine's Day, women in New Brunswick will accept chocolates, they will accept flowers, they will accept lunches and kisses, but what they really want is to get out of poverty" stated Linda McCaustlin, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.

"The present government and employers must taken concrete actions right now if they are serious about changing the economic situation for thousands of women living in poverty in this province" continues Linda McCausltin.

"We need major changes for women in the workforce, for those on social assistance and for elderly women" says Aurea Cormier from the Common Front.

Women at work

Women are more educated than ever. They have entered the labour force in drove but they are still far behind when it come to income. In 2006, almost three quarters (73%) of women with children aged 6 and under and a little more than fifty percent (55%) of lone mothers were working.

Presently, a single mother with one child, when working 40 hours a week at $10.00 an hour, earns $20,800. Such an income puts her $2,284 short of the Poverty Line . In 2006, 61.2% of women aged 15 and over in NB were making less than $10.00 an hour. If her employer pays her the minimum wage of $7.75, she only earns $16,120 on a full time job. With such an income, she ends up being $6,964 below the poverty line!

"With the present economic situation, a high number of workers will loose their job and will have to go on Employment Insurance." says Linda McCausltin.

In 1996, the Federal government made sweeping changes to the Unemployment Insurance program. The number of hours to qualify went from a minimum of 150 hours to a new minimum of 420 hours. Right now in NB, the range goes from a low of 420 hours to a high of 700 hours (700 hours are required in the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton areas). It has always been difficult for women to qualifying for Employment Insurance because of the type of job they occupy and because of family responsibilities and this will certainly continue. For the numerous women earning very low wages, their situation is difficult but it could be worse if they lost their job. Under the present rule, they would only receive 55% of their income. At the minimum wage of $7.75, this is the equivalent of a meagre $170 a week.

"Women do not always get paid the same wage as men when doing work of equal value. Many NB employers go along with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses and are opposed to a Pay Equity Legislation. This is a denial of a basic human right and does nothing to help their economic situation" says Auréa Cormier.

Women in the workforce are also facing an added hurdle because of their family responsibilities. In 2006, 60% of mothers with a child under six years of age had full-time employment. These working women need high quality and affordable childcare programs but these are few in number in our province. Much of what is available is expensive, generally going from $244 to $525 per month.

Women on welfare

Presently, approximately 39,000 New Brunswickers are receiving social assistance. A high percentage of these are women. Of the 29,150 single mothers in New Brunswick, 13,234 of them (45.4%) are living below the poverty line. Most of them are forced to go to one of the 58 food banks in the province. Some are freezing in their home because they cannot afford to pay for heating.

Our province is the one that offers the least help for citizens living in poverty. The total income for people on social assistance is, for all intent and purposes, the lowest in Canada. The 2008 National Council on Welfare report published the total income of a single parent with one child living on welfare. It amounted to $15,451, while the poverty line for a household of two was $23,228. This single parent is therefore $7,777 below the poverty line.

With such a low income, it is not surprising to see women and their children go regularly to food banks and soup kitchens. In 2007, approximately 26,353 youth (under the age of 18) were served by New Brunswick food banks. Approximately 65% of food bank users are receiving social assistance. Unfortunately, 10.7% of the food banks clients have jobs.

Elderly women

"Women who are 65 years old and receiving Old Age Pension and the supplement are living in poverty. Their total income is a little more than $14,000.00. This will certainly not permit them to get out of poverty. In 2005, not much more than one-third of women who had worked were covered by a workplace pension plan." says Linda McCaustlin.

Women want to move out of poverty

On this Valentine's Day, women are looking for action from government and employers. What they really want is to get out of Poverty. To do so, this is what they need:

--30--

For information: Linda McCausltin - (506) 855-7046 and Auréa Cormier - (506) 204-1134