Canadian women dropped out of the workforce in record numbers in 2014
This isn’t a good sign. After decades of increasing participation in the Canadian workforce, a record number of women dropped out in 2014, according to Statistics Canada data compiled by CUPE economist Toby Sanger. Over 80,000 women dropped out of the workforce last year alone, Sanger adds that, “the unemployment rate for women … would […]
This isn’t a good sign.
After decades of increasing participation in the Canadian workforce, a record number of women dropped out in 2014, according to Statistics Canada data compiled by CUPE economist Toby Sanger.
Over 80,000 women dropped out of the workforce last year alone,
Sanger adds that, “the unemployment rate for women … would have risen from 6.4 to 7.3 per cent” last year had women’s participation rates not declined — “this would have been the highest annual rate in 15 years and even higher than it was during the 2009-10 recession years.”
This is strange, Sanger points out, as previous declines coincided with recessions but, “the decline last year comes five years after the recession was supposedly over.” The previous one-year dropout record for women was 67,000 in 1992.
So what caused the decline?
It’s not retirement and it’s not fertility — the biggest declines in workforce participation were middle-aged women aged 40-54, and declines were recorded in every province across Canada.
Sanger goes on to explain:
“Occupations with the greatest decline in female employment were clerical (-36,000); trades, transport, equipment operators and construction (-14,000); professional occupations in health such as nurses (-16,000); and middle management (13,000). Most of these aren’t higher paid occupations with early retirement benefits.
“The industries with the biggest declines of women in their workforce in 2014 were manufacturing, trade, transport, finance and insurance, business and support services, and other and unclassified services. In total the female labour force declined by more than 80,000 in these industries, while the male labour force increased by an almost identical amount in these same industries. Employment trends in these industries follow a similar pattern.”
Although women saw gains in some industries (with the biggest gains in “accomodation and food”), those gains were outpaced by declines in “heavily male-dominated industries”:
So what’s the solution? Sanger makes the following points:
- The gender pay gap recently widened rather than narrowed — Sanger points out that countries with higher pay gaps for women also tend to have lower female participation rates.
- Women’s labour force participation is significantly reduced by higher childcare costs and family caregiving demands for elders and other dependents.
- Workplace cultures could be a factor — a recent Globe and Mail survey found 60% of respondents reported feeling stressed and on edge at work, with many identifying demanding expectations of employers — including poor work-life balance, inflexible routines and limits on sick days as issues contributing to a sense of overload.
- The Harper government’s economic policies have been largely aimed at male-dominated industries like construction, resource extraction and military-security, while neglecting issues relating to women’s roles in the workforce.
- Meanwhile, the Harper government’s lack of support for affordable childcare and opting for tax measures that incentivize women staying at home don’t do much to help.
Photo: Used under Creative Commons Licenses
Our journalism is powered by readers like you.
We’re an award-winning non-profit news organization that covers topics like social and economic inequality, big business and labour, and right-wing extremism.
Help us build so we can bring to light stories that don’t get the attention they deserve from Canada’s big corporate media outlets.