News  Gap between rich and poor widens

More women part of 1 per cent but gender inequity persists

Statistics Canada released a new report this week that reveals a widening gap between the rich and the poor across Canada. The report showed that the median income of the top 1 per cent is 10 times higher than that of the remaining 99 per cent of filers. In 1982, the top 1 per cent was seven times richer, according to the report.

Top income earners are also more likely to stay in the 1 per cent than they were before. 72 per cent of top income earners in 2009 remained part of the 1 per cent one year later. In 1982, that figure stood at 67 per cent.

Quebec faces a similar situation, according to an analysis by the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économique (IRIS), a progressive think-tank. They have reported that the richest 1 per cent of Quebecers have seen their income rise by 59.3 per cent from 1982 to 2010. By comparison, the median income for the poorest 50 per cent of Quebecers has increased by 16.6 per cent during the same period.

“Quebec shows some relative stability during periods of [economic] crisis, which can be attributed to its social safety that is stronger than in other provinces,” Simon Tremblay-Pepin, a researcher with IRIS, told The Daily in French. “But at the same time, inequalities [between the rich and the poor] have been on the rise.”

“Unless there are significant political changes, these [inequalities] will persist,” he added.

More worrisome, Tremblay-Pepin said, is the fact that the share of federal and provincial tax paid by the richest one per cent fell to 21.2 per cent, down from a peak of 23.3 per cent in 2007.

“In Quebec, like in Canada, investment in private businesses has also remained stagnant,” Tremblay-Peppin added. “It’s hard to say that lowered tax rates for the richest benefited [the poorest] in our society.”

The Statistics Canada report also revealed that a greater number of women are now part of the top 1 per cent of income earners. The figure almost doubled from 11 per cent in 1982 to 21 per cent in 2010.

In an interview with The Daily, Gabrielle Bouchard, the Peer Support and Trans Advocacy Coordinator at the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, said that the increase was not “necessarily positive.”

“I think that what this means […] is that a [greater] number of women managed to find a place within the capitalist system to stay in the 1 percent,” Bouchard said in French. “[The one per cent] is a problem that societies like Canada, the U.S, Greece, and Spain have experienced, so I don’t see how this could be a step forward.”

“We should try to talk about the 99 per cent instead of the 1 per cent. It’s more important than trying to look whether or not women can become the CEO of a bank,” she added.

According to Statistics Canada, 7 out of ten part-time workers were women in 2009.

According to Tremblay-Pepin, the increased representation can be explained by the “massive arrival” of women in the workplace at the end of the 1970s. In 1982, he said, this “transition was not yet done.”

“But it’s not because there’s more women in the workplace that they can find a workplace that is equitable, fair, and that gives them the same standing as men. There’s still a wide gap between the current situation and equality,” Tremblay-Pepin explained.

In 2011, women earned an average of $20.11 an hour compared to $22.81 for men, according to a recent study by the Quebec Institute of Statistics. The difference in earning on a weekly basis is even more pronounced, with an average of $666.21 for women compared to $851.68 for men.

Queer McGill’s Trans* Working Group noted in an email to The Daily that income inequality is “too narrow a field to account for the societal effects of sexism” and that looking exclusively at gender “doesn’t reflect the ways that gender combines with race, nationality, educational opportunities, and other factors to affect one’s ability to earn money.”

The absence of a third category for trans* people was also highlighted by the group.

“If the study had listed trans* people […] the results would likely reflect the fact that trans* folks earn a disproportionately lower income relative to both cis men and cis women,” they said.