YWCA Toronto Pre-Budget Consultation with Minister Phillips and MPPs
October 15, 2020
Good afternoon Minister Phillips,
My name is Jasmine Ramze Rezaee, and I am the Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto. Thank you for inviting us. When we participated in the pre-budget consultation in February, I shared with you our expertise about lifting women out of poverty. Sadly, the situation for women in our province has gotten much worse because of the pandemic so it is even more critical now that we work together to address the employment situation of women.
As you know Minister, women are more likely to experience poverty due to labour market access barriers, the gender wage gap, precarious employment, and unpaid caregiving responsibilities.
Therefore, I want to cut straight to the chase: A plan to modernize employment services in Ontario that does not consider the distinct employment needs of women will fail the women in our province and will miss a huge opportunity to support our economy during a time of contraction.
There are sound financial reasons for why women’s employment needs should be at the forefront of all discussion around COVID recovery or she-covery.
Women-specific employment service providers have long been recognized as providing successful models of employment achievement. Your Ministries of Community, Children and Social Services and Labour, Training and Skills Development currently fund women-only programs that target women who have experienced domestic violence or women who are seeking opportunities in the skills trades that offer good salaries and benefits. Unfortunately, many of these programs are only funded sporadically, on a hit and miss annual basis. Employment Ontario does provide consistent funding that allows organizations to plan for the future. Therefore, recognizing women as a specialized demographic within the transformation framework of Employment Ontario programs would help stabilize funding for our sector.
Minister, I am sure you are well aware of the gendered and racial impacts of this pandemic, but it is troubling to see the level of harm women have sustained. Women have been affected by this pandemic in multiple ways: firstly, through school and child care closures; secondly, through workplace hazards; thirdly, through the rise of domestic violence in our country; and fourthly, through work closures in the non-profit sector – 80% of the non-profit workforce in Ontario is comprised of women.
Again, a one-size-fits-all approach to employment hurts women. Over the next five years, one in five new jobs in Ontario is expected to be in trades-related occupations. Women should have access to this opportunity on an equal footing to men. Access to high paying jobs will support she-covery efforts and help expand our tax base.
The women’s sector can be an incredible partner in this process. We have the expertise to help women enter the labour market and thrive.
We urge you, in this upcoming budget, to earmark some significant funding for women’s employment and training programs. We recommend that you commit $100 million in new funding for reskilling training programs specifically for women workers impacted by COVID-19 and to support women on low incomes interested in joining or re-joining the labour market.