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Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Women in Canada

Women are playing stronger roles in the workplace and their profile is rising in many professional fields, according to a new assessment on the evolving status of women in Canadian society.

However, the report still shows substantial gaps between the sexes in many key areas.

The average earnings of employed women are still substantially lower than those of men, women make up a disproportionate share of the population with low incomes and women are much more likely than men to work part time.

On the other hand, one of their real success stories has been the dramatic gain in the proportion of women with a university degree. Women are still slightly less likely than men to have a university degree. But the gap is much narrower than in the past.

The current situation for women is assessed in the fifth edition of the compendium Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, available today. This 300-page report provides a statistical overview of their demographic characteristics, family arrangements, health, education, employment and unpaid work activity, income, housing, and criminal victimization.

It also includes separate sections describing the situations of immigrant women, women in the visible minority community, Aboriginal women, senior women and women with disabilities.

The report found that the increased participation of women in the paid work force has been one of the most significant social trends in Canada in the past quarter century.

In 2004, 58% of all women aged 15 and over were part of the paid work force, up from 42% in 1976. In contrast, the proportion of men who were employed fell during this period from 73% to 68%.

As a result, women accounted for 47% of the employed work force in 2004, up from 37% in 1976.

The report also showed that women have somewhat higher literacy skills, on average, than the male population; the proportion of women living with their spouse has declined in the past two decades; more women are living alone; and women make up the majority of the Canadian population with disabilities.

Higher profile in many professional fields

Women have increased their representation in several professional fields in recent years. Indeed, women currently make up over half those employed in both diagnostic and treatment positions in medicine, related health professions and in business and financial professional positions.

There has also been a long-term increase in the share of women employed in managerial positions. In 2004, 37% of all those employed in managerial positions were women, up from 30% in 1987.

However, all this growth occurred in the early part of this period. The share of management positions accounted for by women actually dipped slightly between 1996 and 2004.

As well, among managers, women tend to be better represented in lower-level positions as opposed to those at more senior levels. Women also remain very much a minority among professionals employed in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

The report also found dramatic increases in the employment levels of women with very young children. By 2004, 65% of all women with children under the age of three were employed, more than double the proportion in 1976. Similarly, 70% of women whose youngest child was aged three to five worked for pay in 2004, up from 37% in 1976.

In addition, the share of female lone parents with jobs has risen dramatically over the last three decades. In 2004, 68% of female lone parents were employed, whereas the figure was below 50% in 1976.

Women are also much more likely than their male counterparts to work part time. In 2004, 27% of the total female work force were part-time employees, more than double the proportion of just 11% among employed men. Women currently account for about 70% of all part-time employees, a figure which has not changed appreciably since the mid-1970s.

The majority of employed women continue to work in occupations in which women have traditionally been concentrated. In 2004, two-thirds of all employed women were working in teaching, nursing and related health occupations, clerical or other administrative positions, and sales and service occupations.

In fact, there has been virtually no change in the proportion of women employed in these traditionally female-dominated occupations over the past decade.

Women's earnings still substantially lower

The average earnings of employed women are still substantially lower than those of men, even when they are employed on a full-time basis.

In 2003, women working on a full-time, full-year basis had average earnings of $36,500, or 71% what their male counterparts made.

As well, the gap between the earnings of women and men has not changed substantially in the past decade.

Women make up a disproportionate share of the population in Canada with low incomes as measured by Statistics Canada's low income cut-off (LICO) on an after-tax basis. Unattached women are particularly likely to have low incomes.

In 2003, 31% of unattached women aged 16 and over lived in low income. Seniors are the least likely unattached women to have low incomes. Indeed, the incidence of low income among unattached senior women has dropped sharply since the early 1980s.

Families headed by female lone parents also have relatively high rates of low income. In 2003, 38% of all families headed by lone-parent mothers had incomes which fell below the after-tax LICO. In comparison, this was the case for 13% of male lone-parent families and just 7% of non-elderly two-parent families with children.

However, the incidence of low income among lone-parent families headed by women has declined somewhat since the early 1980s when the figure hovered around 50%.

As a result, lone-parent families headed by women continue to be home to a disproportionate share of all children living in a low-income situation.

In 2003, 43% of all children in a low-income family were living with a single female parent, whereas these families accounted for only 13% of all children aged 17 and under.

One in seven women is a visible minority

More than two million women, or 14% of the total female population, are members of a visible minority. They are centered largely in Toronto and Vancouver.

More than one-quarter (26%) of women who reported that they were in a visible minority were Chinese, while 22% were South Asian and 17% were Black, according to the 2001 Census.

Three out of every four women who were members of a visible minority lived in either Ontario or British Columbia. Women in a visible minority made up 22% of the overall female population of British Columbia, and 19% in Ontario.

The female visible minority population is relatively well educated. In 2001, 21% of visible minority woman aged 15 or older had a university degree, compared with 14% of other women.

But while visible minority women are better educated on average than other Canadian women, they are somewhat less likely to be employed. In addition, visible minority women generally earn less at their jobs than do other women.

Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, 2005 (89-503-XPE, $49) is now available in print version only.

For more information on this report, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Colin Lindsay (613-951-2603; fax: 613-951-0387;, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.

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