Do Women In NS Need To Trade Sex to Meet Basic Household Needs?

Sex trade graphic

Nova Scotia has the highest rates of trafficking and exploitation in the Canada.

Public Safety Canada states on its website: “A set of interrelated “push” and “pull” factors contribute to human trafficking. “Push” factors include extreme poverty, unemployment, lack of education, inadequate social programs, gender-based inequality, corruption, war and conflict situations, and political unrest in countries of origin. “Pull” factors include the perceived financial rewards of cheap, exploitative labour practices in some economic sectors. Victims may also be ‘pulled’ into trafficking through the promise of money and what is portrayed as or believed to be a better life.”

In February of 2020 the Province of Nova Scotia committed to end these crimes and help victims and survivors. Some long-awaited dollars were committed to the efforts to do so.

However, on November 12th, 2020 an article was published by CBC reporting that the same government stated that “Nova Scotians do not need to trade sex for basic needs”.  In fact, the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on Status of Women Act, Kelly Regan, claimed that our province has adequate supports in place, that all someone needs to do is reach out to a caseworker to get connected to them.

When considering the high rates of child poverty, the level of income someone on income assistance or disability pension receives, and the cost of living in Nova Scotia, it is clear that we continue to keep women and families at lower than poverty levels even within our support system(s). Many women, girls and others who are trafficked and or involved in trading sex for basic needs have and/or continue to receive provincial financial assistance.

Here’s why this happens.

The market basket measure (ref: adjusted to 2018 annual income data (by Canadian Policy Alternatives) shows that the minimum household income required for a family of 4 to live above the poverty line is:

Rural Pop under 30,000 Pop 30,000-99,999 Halifax
Family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) $42,264.23 $43,184.96 $43,495.93 $45,871.58
Single adult $21,132.15 $21,592.48 $21,747.96 $22,935.79

Even when considering an more conservative calculation, the federal governments’ Opportunity for All program, defines Canada’s Poverty Line for Nova Scotia to be between $35,256 to $39,430 annual income for a family of two adults and two children, depending on where they live.

Now let’s take a look at Nova Scotia’s basic income assistance annual rates:

NS Income Assistance (IA) annual rates *after an increase in 2020
Family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) $14,316
Single adult – renting (not boarding) $7,032

When considering the cost of housing in our communities, this recent increase in assistance rates does not even cover the median cost of rent using the entire income assistance allowance for shelter alone. Median rental costs, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in their Living Wage Report for Nova Scotia, (based on Canada Mortgage and Housing’s survey on rental housing for October 2019) which includes tenants’ insurance and utilities, for a 3 bedroom unit range between $13,555 and $19,649 per year depending on where you are located in the province.

Financial assistance provide by the Province of Nova Scotia is completely spent without beginning to take into account any other BASIC NEEDS of Nova Scotians including: food, clothing, transportation, childcare, medical expenses, household expenses (including toiletries, cleaning products, etc.), and minimal social inclusion expenses.

How does a single woman on income assistance of $7032 per year, get her basic needs met? 

We would surmise that assistance rates like Nova Scotia’s ultimately lead to women finding themselves needing to beg, borrow and use other risky means to supplement their incomes.

Minister Regan, noted in February 2020 that these criminal trafficking and exploitation activities disproportionately effect women and children.

Women’s Centres Connect has been advocating for Basic Livable Income, Universal Childcare and Pharmacare, more affordable housing, and more for years.

We implore Governments to reconsider review what support is actually available to Nova Scotians. If we are committed to end trafficking and exploitation of women and children then we need to begin by taking stronger actions to prevent the need for trading sex to meet basic needs.