From a Woman’s Perspective: Canada’s Place in the World
Todayâ€™s day-after-International-Women’s-Day story in the New York Times by Nancy Folbre links to four indices of gender equity.
How is Canada doing?
Canada ranks 4th in the Human Development Index (we were number one for eight years) as well as the UNDP Gender Development Index, behind Norway, Australia and Iceland. Norway has been ranked the best country for human development and gender equality for seven years now.
The UNDPâ€™s Gender Empowerment Index puts us at 10th place (behind Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Germany)
The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index places us in 18th place, where weâ€™ve been since 2007.
Social Watchâ€™s Gender Equity Index uses a different system, to measure out of 100. Canada is 75% this year, where this measure has been since they started 2007, compared to a global average of 34.5%. They donâ€™t do rankings. Globally, the average value dropped between 2008 and 2009, pointing to the impact of the crisis on womenâ€™s prospects, particularly in the worldâ€™s poorest countries.
Both the World Economic Forum and Social Watch are more focused on what is happening in the global south.
While this ranking shows stasis for Canada in the past few years, any improvements women have seen in the past decade are based on their own steam â€“ getting more post-secondary education, working more, buying more homes, getting deeper into personal debt. For years federal budgets have focused on tax cuts and, more recently, stimulus that primarily benefits markets and men. Women, on the other hand, are the primary beneficiaries of improved access to public transit, child care, health care, affordable housing, affordable education, etc. etc. all supports that require more, not less, public sector involvement.
At roughly 13% of GDP, the federal share of the economy today stands at levels of the late 1950s, before we had Medicare, unemployment insurance, seniorsâ€™ income supports and a vast network of universities and colleges, and roughly 2 percentage points lower than the post-war average. The government plan is to pull the size of government further back.
At the same time itâ€™s also focused on a crime-and-punishment agenda and a Defence plan that commits the public purse to spending billions more for policing and emprisoning people at home and fighting wars instead of helping develop nations abroad.
You can only make an economically strong country a great country for people to live in with a public sector engaged in supporting the public. A big public sector doesnâ€™t necessary mean weâ€™ll get the supports people need to reduce violence and have opportunities to learn, grow and participate.
Make a country a safe place for women to live and develop their potential, and itâ€™s great for everyone. Thatâ€™s of course why we went to Afghanistan…right? We should be aiming to make Canada the best country in the world for women (and their loved ones) to live.