That this House condemn the federal government's lack of political will in refusing to take positive action in its areas of jurisdiction to promote economic equality between women and men and cutting transfer payments to the provinces by $4.5 billion, including $1.3 billion to Quebec between 1996 and 1998; and
That, moreover, this House remind the government of the formal commitment it made on March 8, 1994, to take specific measures to improve the socio-economic status of women.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Laval East, each of us using 10 minutes. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to speak today on this motion. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about my vision of International Women's Day.
Many hold the-in my opinion unfounded-belief that celebrating March 8 is unnecessary. Why a special day for women? I must say right off that this day is intended as a day of reflection. It is an opportunity for women of all backgrounds, walks of life and faiths to take stock and see not only how far we have come, but also how long a way we still have to go. This is both a day of celebration and a day for taking charge aimed at examining and improving the social, economic and professional status of women worldwide.
Think that, not so long ago, women did not have the right to vote in Canada. But today, a number of us hold elected office at various levels of government. This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.
International Women's Day has its origins in women's demands for decent working conditions. The new realities of the labour market, which are becoming the lot of a growing number of women, are best described by the words insecurity, instability, short term contracts and underpaid work.
The social safety net that had ensured, so far, that women in both Quebec and Canada could keep their heads above water is under direct attack by the federal government, which, under the guise of restructuring, is in fact using social program funding to reduce its deficit. Thus, the government is the primary cause of increased poverty among women and children in Canada because, instead of closing tax loopholes, as requested time and time again in this House by the Bloc Quebecois over the past three years, the government chose to drastically reduce transfer payments to the provinces, restrict UI eligibility and cut benefits, not to mention downsizing, as it just did at Canada Post, by laying off an unprecedented number of employees, the majority of whom were women.
I would like to quote a few statistics on women, poverty and employment. It is very important to acknowledge these statistics today, as this may be an annual review we are doing here. In 1994, 70 per cent of all Canadians living in poverty were women or children; out of 4.8 million poor people, there were 2 million women and 1.3 million children. That is a lot of people. There are now 1.5 million children living in poverty, 200,000 more than when the Liberals took office. That is a clear setback.
Of all the industrialized countries, Canada is the one where the proportion of women in low paying jobs is the highest, at 34.3 per cent, with the exception of Japan, which has a rate of 37.2 per cent.
Let us look at more figures. Only 20 per cent of women have a full time job, throughout the year, for which they earn more than $30,000 per year, compared to 40 per cent of men.
The vast majority of part time jobs are held by women. In 1994, 69 per cent of all part time workers in Canada were women, a figure that has not varied much over the last two decades.
Again in 1994, 1.6 million women, or 26 per cent of those who had a job, were part time workers, compared to only 9 per cent of
men holding a job. Moreover, an increasing number of women are working part time because they cannot find a full time job.
In 1994, over 500,000 women, that is 34 per cent of all women working part time, said they would like to have a full time job. The unemployment rate among certain groups of women is higher than the national average. For young women under 24 years of age, that rate stands at 15.6 per cent.
Here are more figures. The majority of working women hold jobs that have traditionally been women's occupations. In 1994,60 per cent of all working women were teachers, nurses, or had a similar job in the health sector, were office workers, or were in sales and services. By comparison, 31 per cent of the working men had jobs in these areas.
Statistics show that 57.3 per cent of single mothers with children under 18 are poor. Regardless of women's level of education, their earnings are lower than those of men. Even female university graduates working full time throughout the year only earned 75 per cent of what their male counterparts made in 1993.
These statistics show that women are not moving forward, they are losing ground. Women are getting poorer year after year. Moreover, the number of jobs for women is decreasing. We also have to realize that, given the number of divorces and separations, there are more and more single mothers. These women find themselves in charge of a family, but without a job. Sure, they get support payments, but these are never enough to provide children with all they need for education, health, etc.
We are therefore in the process of taking a net step backwards. It is unacceptable when we realize that today in 1997 after all the progress women have made, all the work done by women's groups, all the work done by unions, by all the groups working to advance the cause of women and develop job markets for women that, today in 1997, we are losing ground.
At this point, I would like to remind you of the promises the Liberals made in the red book, and I will tell you what they were.
The Liberals gave us universal health care, unemployment insurance, old age benefits, the guaranteed income supplement, the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Assistance Plan, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The failure of the economic and social policies of the Conservatives is obvious: there are 1.6 million unemployed; 4.2 million Canadians, including 1.2 million children, live in poverty; 62 per cent of single mothers live under the poverty line, and their incomes are slipping.
Since 1984, the Conservatives have systematically chipped away at the social safety net built up over the years.
They have cut health care, and assistance to children, seniors and the unemployed by billions of dollars. They have encouraged the development of a two tier society that separates the rich and the poor, those with education and those without, with middle classes gradually disappearing. Most Canadians do not want this kind of country.
It is well known that not nearly enough money is being spent on research into breast cancer, which affects one woman out of nine. Many single mothers would like to find work but, for lack of quality day care, must settle for welfare. They must rely on meagre welfare payments, food banks and inadequate housing. They cannot receive training or find jobs that would make them financially independent. If we look at the cuts made by the federal government in social housing alone, it is truly shocking.
In conclusion, for I see I have used up all my time, I would like to mark this day. I would like to pay tribute to all the parliamentary women who are working today and who, I hope, will see, today, tomorrow and Sunday, in their various regions and fields of activity what remains to be done to advance the cause of women.