Back when Pierre Trudeau was the prime minister of Canada and bands like ABBA and Queen topped the music charts, men and women across Alberta were busy working.
According to Statistics Canada, in 1976, 43 per cent of Alberta families had two working parents – the highest proportion in Canada. Fast-forward to 2015 and 64 per cent of couple families were dual income. That’s five per cent less than the national average and the lowest proportion in the entire country.
The Ho family’s arrangement represents a common choice for young Alberta families: one parent works while the other stays home with little ones.
“We’ve made that choice. It works best for us and we think that for our son, that’s the way that we would prefer,” Keri Ho said about her family stretching her husband’s police salary so she can stay home and raise their one-and-a-half-year-old son, Easton. “We make sacrifices and we don’t go out to eat as much and we don’t do other things that maybe if we had a dual income, families would be able to do.”
Keri’s husband, Han Ho, expands on potential reasons for Alberta’s unique position.
“It’s not that long ago when you had one parent who maybe would go two weeks to Fort Mac, make tons of money and is able to support the whole family,” he said.
Rhonda Breitkreuz is a University of Alberta researcher who specializes in gender, child care, family issues and social policy.
“I think what we’re seeing is that we have a large number of young families with these young kids and that has implications for women’s employment,” she explained. “When you have a disproportionate number of young moms with young kids, you’re going to see lower labour participation rates for those young moms, so that’s part of the reason.
Watch below: Rhonda Breitkreuz, an associate professor specializing in gender, family and policy studies at the University of Alberta, explains how Alberta’s resource-based economy influences the number of single-income households across the province.
Breitkreuz believes the economic downturn could lead to a shift in how families earn income.
“Will we see more women going back into the labour force? Will we see some gender role reversals?”
A one-income household is working for the Ho family. For them, it’s about living in line with their values.
“Watching him (Easton) and making sure he’s safe and cared for.”