Equality Crisis (Le Devoir)

By Karl Rettino-Parazelli
Originally published on March 3 2015
See original French text here: http://www.ledevoir.com/economie/emploi/433298/relance-economique-les-femmes-ont-ete-plus-penalisees-que-les-hommes-conclut-l-iris

Women are more harshly affected by austerity measures than men, and recovery plans are less favourable to them as well.

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir

IRIS researchers have observed a 7 billion dollar gap between men and women.

Women in Quebec have suffered from the collateral damage of the most recent economic crisis more than men. They have been more harshly affected by the “austerity” measures put in place in order to balance the budget and have not seen as many benefits of the economic recovery as men have.

A new study published on Monday by the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS) reveals that the measures iimposed to straighten out Quebec’s finances are not “neutral” or “technocratic”, contrary to the Couillard government’s claims: they affect women more than men.

“The results are clear, the process of economic recovery since 2008 has had a negative impact on women, be it in the context of recovery or austerity measures”, states the study’s co-author Eve-Lyne Couturier.

In order to arrive at that conclusion, IRIS researchers analyzed 192 measures included in adopted budgets, economic updates and budgetary statements published between November 2008 and now. They observed a gap of nearly 7 billion dollars between men and women within this period.

Important Gap

The study’s authors estimate that in the context of economic recovery, imposed budgetary measures have benefitted woman and men relatively equally. However, the strengthening of the Plan québécois des infrastructures [the Conseil du trésor’s 10-year plan for expenditures in public infrastructure] has caused an imbalance.

“The economic recovery measures have mostly benefitted men because they are focused on the construction sector, explains Ms. Couturier. They have benefitted from 7.2 billion dollars versus 3.5 billion dollars for women, which means that over that whole span, they gained 3.7 billion more.”

“Let’s be clear, we are not against programs of infrastructure investment, points out Simon Tremblay-Pépin, also a co-author of the study. But the government’s own insistence on promoting this type of program indicates that the effect on men and women has not been taken into account.”

In addition to the broader cuts, tax and fee increases, and cuts and freezes in wages, the leftist think tank also observed that women have been burdened with 3.1 billion dollars more in cuts than men.

In short, the researchers analyzed each of the budgetary measures (both of recovery and “austerity”) and have attempted to determine their impacts on men and women based on available statistics. In each case, the repercussions of the measures on either the staff or the service beneficiaries were evaluated.

For example, IRIS considers that the 2014-2015 budgetary measures to prioritize Quebec’s northern natural resources privileges more men (90.2%) than women (9.8%) because the latter have far fewer jobs in the mineral extraction sector.

With regards to “austerity” measures, women have been particularly affected because they constitute approximately 75% of the public sector work force, adds the research group. The effects of cuts in the aggregate ministerial payroll or in sectors such as health care and education have been greater for men than for women.

“In addition to having detrimental effects on Quebec’s economy and citizens, […] the government’s austerity measures also contribute to increasing the inequalities between men and women, conclude the authors. We have no choice but to believe the 2015-2016 budget will not be an exception and will present new austerity measures.”

The IRIS study was published a few days before International Women’s Day on March 8. The president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec and co-spokesperson of the Collectif 8 mars, Alexa Conradi, hopes that elected officials will learn something from it. “It is imperative that the government take IRIS’ findings into account and seriously contemplate solutions that would promote a greater equality between men and women, [as it is] stated in the foreword to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights”, she asserts.

The Intersyndicale des femmes [a group of women from 7 major Quebec unions] and the Relais-femmes [a feminist research and consultation group] helped finance the IRIS study.

Translated from the original French by Language and Dissent, a collectively-run blog supporting the anti-austerity struggle in Quebec. These are amateur translations written by volunteers; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may have their flaws. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us via email (languageanddissent [at] gmail [dot] com). Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.

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