It’s budget season for the municipal, provincial, and federal governments – and YWCA Hamilton is advocating at all three levels for increased investments benefitting women, families, and gender-diverse people.
Our representatives have been meeting and corresponding with local elected officials to ensure that the voices of those we served are represented in the budget process at all levels of government.
Our CEO, Medora Uppal, recently participated in a roundtable discussion with MPs Filomena Tassi, Chad Collins, and Lisa Hephner to give her feedback in advance of the 2023 Federal budget.
Here’s what Medora recommended:
Recommendation #1: Increased gender-specific housing funding through the National Housing Strategy
Women and gender-diverse people are experiencing the most significant housing need in Canada. One in four women-led, single-parent households live in unsuitable, inadequate, or unaffordable housing, while emergency shelters across Canada have 13 per cent of beds dedicated to women, compared to 30 per cent dedicated to men.
We know that women and gender-diverse people make up at least half of the population of people experiencing homelessness. The most recent Point in Time Connection here in Hamilton showed 53 per cent of folks represented in the count were women – and this doesn’t include women and gender-diverse people experiencing hidden homelessness.
The Liberal government has committed to allocating 25 per cent of funds in the National Housing Strategy to women – however, minimal funding has materialized. Of the $28 billion committed through the National Housing Strategy, only $1.2 billion has been dedicated to purpose-built housing for women – that’s 4.2 per cent of the 25 per cent commitment.
The need for shelters and transitional housing across the country will only increase in the face of soaring housing costs, inflation, and the ongoing crisis of gender-based violence. Shelters in Hamilton are forced to turn away women and families who are experiencing violence at home, forcing them to stay with their abuser.
As a result, we recommend the National Housing Strategy use a grants-based system to fully fund development of permanent affordable housing specifically dedicated to women, children and gender-diverse people and renew the Women and Children Shelter and Transitional Housing Initiative launched by CMHC in 2021-2022.
Recommendation #2: Advancing Economic Empowerment for women through investing in upskilling, reskilling, and skilled trades training
Hand in hand with the need for gender-specific housing is the need for economic empowerment for women across Canada. According to RBC Economics, if women’s wages were equal to men’s in comparable jobs, we could see an $18 billion boost to Canadian household income, which is an increase of 1.5%.
While women’s workforce participation has recovered after hitting an almost 30-year low during the pandemic, the gap between men’s and women’s pay remains virtually unchanged from pre-Covid levels. This wage differential is largely driven by mothers between 25 and 54. Women with young children under age 6 earned 87 cents for every dollar earned by fathers with children of the same age.
We are starting to see the positive effects of the National Child Care plan, but we need to do more to close the economic gender gap. This includes creating more opportunities for upskilling, recruiting more women into the skilled trades and building pathways for women to advance in non-traditional occupations that support their financial independence such as technology and advanced manufacturing.
With skilled tradespeople in severe short-supply across Canada, it’s imperative to recruit more women into these careers. Though the share of women entering male-dominated trades has increased over the last decade, it was still only 5% of apprenticeship registrations in 2019.
As you know, YWCA Hamilton is already doing the work of supporting women’s economic empowerment through our pre-apprenticeship and upskilling programs. Programs like these are a crucial part of opening the doors to these male-dominated industries, more needs to be done to create better work environments on job sites and training employers to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
Therefore, we recommend increased investments in gender-specific upskilling, reskilling, and skilled trades programs, as well as programs run by women’s organizations to support diversity in the workforce.
Recommendation #3: Core funding and Capacity-building for women’s organizations
Women’s organizations, including YWCA Hamilton, are still feeling the effects of the pandemic. Demands for our services are increasing, yet we remain severely underfunded – and have been for decades.
All three levels of government relied on organizations like YWCA Hamilton to step in and care for some of the most vulnerable people during the pandemic. The increased levels of investment we saw flowing to our organizations during the pandemic kept us afloat; now, we need consistent, reliable operating funding to maintain our organizations and support for capacity growth to be shockproof when the next national or global crisis hits.
As a result, we recommend core funding for women’s organizations to ensure that we can continue our life-saving and life-changing work in the community.
Medora Uppal, CEO