Province addresses COVID-19 economic recovery for Alberta women

The pandemic has brought a number of long lasting impacts on Albertans, and when it comes to economic challenges, women are feeling the loss.

According to an RBC study, over 500,000 women lost their jobs when the pandemic began, with more than 200,000 not looking to return to work.

Mother Kristin Rodier says she struggled to balance childcare and work full time during the pandemic, until she eventually burned out and lost her job.

“The toll on all of our mental health and exhaustion with being home all the time isolated, taking care of children at home all the time is exhausting,” said Rodier.

Rodier is not alone. Statistics Canada revealed 64 per cent of women reported that they have taken on homeschooling or helping children with homework at some point during the pandemic, compared to 19 per cent of Canadian men.

And while challenges in caregiving, risk of domestic and sexual violence, and economic inequality have been a burden to women for decades, provincial officials say the pandemic has highlighted those issues.

They say they’re committed to finding a solution by working with Alberta’s nonprofit sector, as recommended by a new report from the Premier’s Council on Charities and Civil Society.

“This report has been really important in terms of how the genesis of it has been from the point of civil society,” said Whitney Issik, Associate Minister of Status of Women.

Between July and October 2021, the council worked with nonprofits, Indigenous Elders, and Alberta women to learn what is needed in their recovery from the pandemic.

The report provides recommendations to the province including an increased investment in affordable childcare and long-term funding for non-profit organizations that aim to support women.

“The real difference here is that rather than (the) government stating, ‘There are the goals from the top down,’ this is actually civil society, and women telling the rest of society and government what the goals ought to be based on lived experience,” Issik said.

Senior researcher with Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives Katherine Scott is hopeful the province will consider putting the council’s recommendations to action but believes there are missing pieces.

“How are we supporting newcomers and new immigrant women getting established in the labor force? Do they have access to community support? Those sort of things aren’t spoken here,” said Scott.

The report is also missing a timeline or clear action plan. Despite that, Scott says involving those at the center of gender-based challenges is a good start.

“It’s fantastic there was engagement,” said Scott. “We have to center the voices of those who are most impacted (and) those who are most marginalized if we ever have a hope of changing up the way we do things.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski.

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