Editorial

By McKeen, Wendy | Canadian Review of Social Policy, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Editorial


McKeen, Wendy, Canadian Review of Social Policy


The articles in this issue address the various impacts of neoliberal social policy, and explore barriers to, and possibilities for, meaningful changes. Using a variety of research approaches, the articles tackle critical questions pertaining to Employment Insurance (EI) and poverty, pay equity and care work, incarceration and mental health issues, and social housing and stress.

The first article, Motherhood and Unemployment: Intersectional Experiences from Canada, critically analyses the impact of the 1996 changes to EI on unemployed mothers. The article addresses an important gap in research by employing an intersectional lens that demonstrates that one's experience of unemployment and EI is impacted by compounding and intersecting identities. The study is based on interviews with 26 unemployed women caring for children or other dependents in Toronto and Halifax in 2013. The authors show that the policy assumption (based on the male-breadwinner ideology) that women can freely choose when and under what conditions they enter the labour market is false. The compounding effects of being a woman, a mother, and a single mother, affected participants' experiences of unemployment and played a significant role in their dependency. It led them to either rely on a domestic partner (if they had one), or the state, or to work under the table. Those that do not have a domestic partner that they can rely on are especially prone to facing inadequate living conditions, including limited income, insufficient health care benefits, and the stress of insecurity. The author recommends changes to EI that take account of these findings and the provision of a range of other policies that are needed to support mothers' varying roles and identities.

The next two articles explore the role of the media in presenting obstacles to achieving positive and progressive policy change. The article, Limited and Limiting Conversations About the Poor, examines the way poverty issues are framed and represented in Canadian newspapers. Using the method of content and critical discourse analysis, the author examines the coverage of poverty by thirteen newspapers over a one-month period in 2012. The author finds that while the context of poverty has changed over the past two decades, poverty discourse in the Canadian press has stagnated. Newspaper coverage of poverty relies heavily on stereotypes and longstanding themes, including that poverty is inevitable and poor people are responsible for their own condition. Those living in poverty are described in a figurative language that serves more to sensationalize poverty than to present the realities. The solutions proposed generally fall back on the Elizabethan poor-law principles, with little insight into the policy solutions undertaken internationally, apart from the U.S. experience. The author suggests that the current discourse on poverty in Canada serves mostly to stigmatize the poor and reduce public and political support for raising benefit levels. This profoundly, and detrimentally, impacts the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty, including especially, women and children, people living with mental health issues or disabilities and chronic illnesses, people who are homeless or living on income security, Indigenous peoples, those unemployed, underemployed, or working while poor.

The article, L'engagement politique et militant de la Coalition pour l'équité salariale: Analyse de la lutte de reconnaissance des emplois de proximité occupés par les femmes au Nouveau-Brunswick, also explores gaps and biases in the media coverage, with a focus on women's work and pay equity issues. The authors studied more than 3000 newspaper articles published between 2001 and 2012 about a pay equity group in New Brunswick called la Coalition pour l'Équité Salariale/the Pay Equity Coalition (PEC). They discover that while pay equity is an issue that most often impacts women, this fact is barely acknowledged by the media. …

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