by Lauren Ravon, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to forego his trip to Davos this year and opted instead for a tour across Canada to meet with ordinary citizens. If you're a feminist -- here's why you should care.
Every January politicians, businesspeople, celebrities and investors descend on Davos, Switzerland for a highly exclusive meeting -- the World Economic Forum. This year, as a backdrop to the forum, people around the world are saying they're fed up with the global economic system.
And they're right. Our current economic model works exceptionally well for the one per cent -- who, since 2015, own more wealth than the rest of the planet combined. But it doesn't work very well for most of us, who have seen stagnating wages and a simultaneous rise in the price of consumer goods and housing costs.
We want an economic model that works for women.
And it absolutely does not work for women or the poorest 10 per cent of society. In fact, this current model of GDP-obsessed, profit-focused growth actually drives rising inequality. It makes rich people richer, and keeps women and the poor trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt. It's not a pretty picture.
So it makes sense for prime minister Trudeau to skip the show in Davos to speak with real people here at home.
This is an opportunity -- not only for the prime minister to boost his approval ratings, but for feminists across the country who have a message for him. As the weeks close in before the release of the next federal budget, we need to get out our loudspeakers and make sure this government hears us clearly: we want an economic model that works for women.
Cambodian girls being transported in a truck to work in factories - a common sight across South East Asia and many other developing countries. (Photo: Oxfam)
Women contribute significantly to the economy but gain the least from economic growth. They are often employed in low-pay sectors and face high levels of discrimination in the workplace. In every single country on this planet they continue to be paid less than men. And to add insult to injury, as governments continue to slash public services, women are asked to pick up the majority of unpaid care work, now estimated to be worth US$10 trillion a year. In short, women are subsidizing the global economy with free and cheap labour, enriching the one per cent while many are unable to escape poverty themselves.
According to research from Oxfam and labour rights groups in Myanmar, garment workers are working up to 11 hours a day, six days a week, but remain trapped in poverty. The CEOs of these companies are some of the highest-paid people in the world.
In short, women are subsidizing the global economy with free and cheap labour.
Inclusive growth is about leveling the economic playing field here at home, but also holding Canadian companies accountable abroad and making sure we don't feed into a global race to the bottom on taxation and wages. It's also about increasing our international aid budget, which is at an appalling 50-year record low, so that Canada can become the global leader it aspires to be.
Trudeau's cross-Canada town halls next week must absolutely include women's rights and anti-poverty organizations. He needs to meet with women staying in shelters and hotel cleaners with precarious contracts. He needs to speak to day care workers and single moms. And he needs to be reminded of women everywhere on the planet who are getting shortchanged by a broken economic system.
If the prime minister is serious about inclusive growth, he needs to speak with women who've been left in the dust by an economic system that's spiraling out of control. Their insights will certainly be more valuable to him than those of any business tycoon in Davos.
When prime minister Trudeau attended the Forum in Davos last year, he received accolades for his feminist speech. This year I hope he'll have meaningful conversations about women's rights with Canadians as he travels across the country, and shortly thereafter announce a federal budget that fights inequality and works for women.
Why expect anything less from a feminist government?
To support Oxfam's call for an economy that works for women go to www.shortchanged.ca
To find out more about Oxfam's recommendations for the 2017 federal budget, download the SHORTCHANGED report.
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