Growing income inequality is regularly in the public spotlight, with Canada’s top 100 CEOs making 193 times the average worker’s wage. But there’s less attention on the even starker inequalities around wealth, and its gendered impacts.

Oxfam recently reported that eight multi-billionaires – all men – now own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. The richest 1% of the world’s population owns as much as the other 99% of humanity. Canada’s two wealthiest multi-billionaires, David Thompson and Galen Weston, have as much wealth as the poorest 30 per cent of Canadians. Both men inherited their wealth.

Focusing on wealth is important because it’s a reflection of economic power and security. It provides self-determination and control as well as the capacity to earn income and influence political power. Globally, women have far less wealth than men – and less power. Although the report doesn’t apply this lens, it’s crucial to remember that racialized, Indigenous and other marginalized women experience even larger wealth and power gaps.

In Canada, men are more likely to operate and work for private corporations, while women make up 63 per cent of the public sector workforce. Women are much more likely to work in the “care economy” – including health care, child care, long-term care, social services, personal and community services – often in part-time and precarious jobs. They also provide unpaid care for their families, households and communities

As wealth has become increasingly concentrated, so has corporate power. A handful of highly profitable mega-corporations increasingly control their markets, and have the ability to buy up competition and influence governments – including to privatize services. Tax policies have enabled the rich to get richer – overwhelmingly benefitting wealthy men – while public sector austerity, wage freezes and cuts to public services hit women hardest, both as providers and users of public services.

A key focus for Oxfam Canada (whose staff are members of CUPE 2722) is on improving women’s rights as key to ending global poverty and building an economy that works for the 99%. Oxfam Canada is advocating for greater tax fairness and is calling for the federal government  to make women’s work paid, equal and valued by:

  • Ensuring living wages in Canada, including introducing a $15/hour minimum wage, and requiring Canadian companies working abroad to ensure decent work standards for women.
  • Closing the gender pay gap and make sure women are treated fairly at work no matter what their job, including introducing proactive pay equity legislation and protecting the rights of domestic workers.
  • Investing in public services, like child care and elder care, that reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work.
  • Increasing the aid budget to tackle global poverty and advance women’s rights around the world.

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