Blog | September 02, 2014

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON—Provincial bias against jobs dominated by women explains statistics that show nearly two out of three low-wage workers in Alberta are women, an advocacy group says.Statistics Canada figures released by Public Interest Alberta on Monday, Labour Day, show that one in five Albertans earns less than $15 per hour, and 61 per cent of those low-wage workers are women.Executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said that while Alberta’s minimum wage will rise 25 cents to $10.20 an hour Monday, those who serve liquor will earn $9.20 per hour — a full dollar less.“We’ve known for some time that significantly more women work in these low-wage areas, and I think that’s tied to so many government policies,” Moore-Kilgannon said.He referred to policies concerning child care workers, agencies that support people with disabilities, and the government’s “horrible policy that has servers getting paid less than the minimum wage.“These are areas that are predominantly occupied by women, so I think our provincial government needs to take a hard look at the bias they have toward these areas of work.”The province introduced a controversial, two-tier minimum wage in 2011. A Tory-dominated all-party committee studied the issue for seven months and rejected the idea, but then-employment minister Thomas Lukaszuk implemented it after heavy lobbying by Alberta restaurant operators, who argued that liquor servers don’t really earn minimum wage because they receive tips.When the policy was first introduced, the difference between the two tiers was 35 cents; the gap has now increased to $1, and will stay that way.“A $1 per hour differential between the two wages will now be maintained to recognize that liquor servers typically earn tips,” the province said in a statement released Thursday.The Statistics Canada figures published by the left-leaning advocacy group were released the same week as the province’s annual minimum wage profile.The government report shows 25,700 Albertans work for the minimum wage of $10.20 an hour. The provincial “summary profile” of a minimum-wage worker paints the picture of a female teenager working full-time in accommodation or food services; she has yet to graduate from high school and has less than one year of working experience. The profile is based in part on provincial statistics that show 71 per cent of minimum-wage workers are women, and one in three are under age 19.The Statistics Canada figures released by Public Interest Alberta show 383,900 Albertans work for $15 per hour or less. The advocacy group paints a very different picture, noting nearly four of every five low-wage workers are older than 20 and “in their prime earning years.” For example, 35 per cent of low-wage earners are adults between 25 and 44, and 21 per cent are over 45.Moore-Kilgannon emphasized that the statistics only count employed people, not unemployed.“Behind the numbers are real people struggling day in and day out as we see rents increasing, the price of food increasing, the price of gas increasing,” he said.“There’s a huge impact on those people and their immediate families, but we also have to recognize that it has an impact on our communities and our economy. Unfortunately for many people that are trapped in those low-wage jobs, it becomes a vicious cycle.”[email protected]/ablegreporter© Copyright (c) The Edmonton JournalRead the article on the Edmonton Journal's website.