After more than two years of economic turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic, labor force participation in Canada looks pretty rosy overall for women.
The share of women aged 25-54 is at its highest level ever in the country at 85%. Meanwhile, unemployment for all workers has hit a record low, according to Statistics Canada.
But experts say that while looking at the big picture of the economy might seem like cause for celebration, a closer look at the details offers a more nuanced look at the uneven recovery that hasn’t edified all women’s groups across the country. the same way.
Women working in sectors directly affected by the pandemic – public jobs and the care economy – have been deeply affected by shutdowns throughout the pandemic. As other groups of women remained at work during this time, they handled a massive increase in domestic work and unpaid care work. Taken together, experts said these forces affect women’s economic security and gender equality as a whole.
Women have done much worse during the pandemic compared to previous recessions. In past recessions, about 17% of job losses were among women, with most men losing their jobs, said Brittany Feor, an economist at the Labor Market Information Council. During the pandemic recession, job losses were almost evenly split between men and women.
A recent report from the council found that this year the picture is somewhat positive, Feor said, but it depends on the type of job and the industry in which a woman works.
These two points relate to the fact that many women work in sectors vulnerable to pandemic restrictions and precarious to begin with, such as accommodation, food and recreation, according to a recent report by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.
Pandemic recovery efforts that focus on those facing the greatest obstacles are needed to prevent gains in gender equality from being lost, according to the center’s report.
Feor also warned of the risk of declining earnings for women over time, noting in particular the current labor force participation of mothers.
“It’s much higher than other years, it’s recovered. It sounds positive. But we are still only in 2022. So we want to be aware of coming back in three years, four years and five years. What does it look like?” she said.
The effect of having to stay home with a young child or working from home with a young child can influence women’s career paths in ways that aren’t immediately known, Feor said.
“The setbacks you’ve had in not being able to participate in a certain project or work more hours than your male counterparts who didn’t have to do the same – those are issues that will play out in the long run.”
Juggling home care and work responsibilities can affect a woman’s career as well as her health, said Andrea Gunraj, vice president of public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
The foundation conducted a recent poll that suggested Canadian moms are much more likely than dads to say they feel anxious and sad, and those feelings haven’t gone away since they were asked the question l ‘last year.
Maru/Matchbox surveyed 1,506 Canadians from April 20-21 on behalf of the foundation. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because online panels are not considered truly random samples.
About two in five mothers said they put their careers on hold to manage domestic and care responsibilities.
“That, to me, is a really interesting and earth-shattering discovery because what you’re seeing is people putting paid work aside so they can deal with unpaid work, basically. And what does this mean for women’s economic well-being, their ability to care for themselves and their dependents? It’s a huge impact on them,” Gunraj said.
Almost half of mums said they had reached their breaking point this year, compared to just over 30% of dads who said so.
“It’s really a situation where people are really stretched and women are disproportionately stretched due to unpaid care responsibilities,” Gunraj said.
In a recent funding announcement, Jobs Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government had invested $300 million to create a jobs strategy for people with disabilities, set up a women’s entrepreneurship fund and tailored its learnings and programs to help sectors meet the needs of women in the workforce.
When it comes to helping female caregivers, “we know affordable and accessible child care is #1, it’s really going to make a difference,” Gunraj said in reference to the new federal plan to to create an affordable child care system across the country.
Gunraj noted that it needs to be really affordable and accessible to the most vulnerable families, which means being able to assess its results to see if it’s not helping people to the extent it needs to, and then improving it.
The national childcare plan helps mothers and their children, but it could also help create well-paying care jobs for new early childhood educator positions, according to the CCPA report.
This depends on the minimum wages set by the provinces and territories, with Ontario setting its minimum wage for early childhood educators at $18 per hour.
During the recent announcement alongside Qualtrough, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development said that the federal government had asked the provinces to include a salary grid in the agreements signed on child care. children.
“Working conditions and wages fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. But we encourage them every moment to do more,” said Karina Gould.
New Brunswick raised its minimum hourly wage for early childhood educators to $23.40, Newfoundland to $25 and the Yukon to $30, she said.
– Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press