Canada’s employment rate for women aged 25-54 reached a record 81.6% in November. This pushed the national unemployed rate lower, to 5.1%, according to Statistics Canada. This new record rate suggests that recent labor changes made by the government are closing the longstanding gender gaps in employment.
Women have faced many additional hurdles in employment for years. During the pandemic, women were disproportionally hit by unemployment. Many of the sectors hit the hardest were heavily women-led, and many of the childcare burdens fell onto them when schools and daycares closed, resulting in even more of them having to leave the job force.
This gender demographic is now back and at higher rates than ever before. Job vacancies numbered nearly one million in September, and Trudeau’s subsidized daycare plan has helped women rejoin the labor market in such high numbers.
The tight labor market also forced companies to consider candidates with less experience or who need more flexibility in scheduling, both conditions that often apply to women who shoulder most of the parenting responsibilities.
“Women feel more confident going back into the workforce because they won’t be spending their whole paycheque on child care,” said Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist at Alberta Central.
A big part of the motivation for the government’s overhaul of the national childcare system last year was to boost employment. They observed Quebec’s subsidized daycare initiative from two decades ago, noting that it allowed more women to join the workforce. This had the additional benefit of offsetting the effects of an aging population.
Now daycare costs can be subsidized by nearly 50%. However, there are still challenges ahead that the federal government must address. Namely, that there are enough spots in daycares to meet the increasing need.
There are also concerns about how the looming recession could impact employment for women, who are often the first to sacrifice their careers during economic hardship. However, for now, these record employment numbers are to be celebrated.
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