Financial Exclusion and Gender Inequity Among Low-Income Women in Canada

Paper written by Carly Kublick

  • For a Directed Readings course, International Development, The University of Winnipeg
  • Menno Simons College, Canadian Mennonite University

Efforts in recent decades to advance gender equality have succeeded in increasing women’s economic participation. There are still many barriers, however, experienced by low-income women that prevent them from achieving their own definitions of financial well-being. Barriers such as low-skilled precarious labour and the pressures of caregiving make accruing savings difficult, placing low-income women in a vulnerable position for later in life. By using choice discourses prevalent in neoliberal schools of thought to place blame on individuals for their financial vulnerability, low-income women are further marginalized. This discourse is prevalent in financial literacy education in Canada and therefore undermines the challenges that marginalized groups face in achieving financial well-being. Because of this narrow focus, there is a gap in the literature that this paper fills.

            To highlight key issues for low-income women this paper uses evidence provided by the Canadian Financial Diaries research project (CFD). The CFD analyzed the finances of 29 low-income individuals over a one-year period, including weekly interviews with the participants and two longer interviews concerned with financial well-being (see Transcript 1). This paper will use the data from four of those participants to better understand the challenges faced by low-income women in achieving financial well-being. Emerging themes include: a high level of awareness of spending; anxiety about lack of savings; a strong desire to contribute to their communities and families; and precarious employment. Finally, to address the inequities present in an economic system that marginalizes low-income women this paper puts forward recommendations to strengthen social infrastructure through the continued funding of financial helplines.

<Paper available here>

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