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Women in Canada: Work Chapter Updates
By Marcia Almey
Women in the workplace
Ed. note: The entry of large numbers of women into the paid workforce has been one of the dominant social trends in Canada over the last half century. That is one of the key findings in Women in Canada 2005, the latest edition of Statistics Canada 's seminal series of reports on gender trends in Canada, which was released in March, 2006. The following report attempts to complement the Women in Canada series, which is published only every five years, by providing updated information on women's participation in the labour market. It should be noted, however, that only indicators for which updated figures are available have been included in this report. As such, the reader is encouraged to refer to the full Women in Canada 2005 document for the latest data on other key topics such as unpaid household work and participation in volunteer work.
This report is an adaption of the section in Women in Canada 2005 entitled "Paid and Unpaid Work" by Colin Lindsay and Marcia Almey. The data in this report were compiled by Marcia Almey. Questions or comments should be addressed to Colin Lindsay by calling 613-951-2603 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The past several decades have witnessed dramatic growth in the share of women who are part of the paid workforce. In 2006, 58% of all women aged 15 and over had jobs, up from 42% in 1976. In contrast, the proportion of men who were employed in 2006 (68%) was well below the figure recorded in 1976 (73%). As a result of these trends, women accounted for 47% of the employed workforce in 2006, up from 37% in 1976. (Table 1)
Most of the growth in female employment in the past quarter century, however, took place during the late 1970s and 1980s. Between 1976 and 1990, for example, the proportion of adult women participating in the paid labour force rose from 42% to 54%. In contrast, the female employment rate dipped to 52% during the recession in the early part of the 1990s and hovered around that level for much of the rest of the decade. The share of women with jobs, though, has begun to rise again in recent years, increasing to 58% in 2006. The employment rate among men has also risen in the past several years after almost two decades of decline, although rates of growth in male employment remain somewhat below those of their female counterparts.
Women in Ontario and the Western provinces are more likely than those in Quebec and most of the Atlantic provinces to be employed. In 2006, 65% of women in Alberta worked at a job or business, as did 61% of those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 59% in Ontario, and 58% in British Columbia. In contrast, just over half of all women in each of Quebec (56%), New Brunswick (55%) and Nova Scotia (55%) were employed that year, while the figure was just 48% in Newfoundland and Labrador. The exception to this pattern was Prince Edward Island, where 59% of women were employed in 2006. (Table 2)
In all provinces, however, women are considerably less likely than their male counterparts to be part of the paid workforce. Indeed, in 2006, the difference between the proportions of women and men with jobs was as high as 12 percentage points in Alberta, 11 in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 9 in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario. There were also gaps of 6 points in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, 5 points in Prince Edward Island, and 4 points in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Not surprisingly, the likelihood of women being employed increases dramatically the higher their level of educational attainment. In 2006, 75% of women with a university degree and 69% of those with a certificate or diploma from a community college worked for pay or profit, compared with 61% of those with some postsecondary training and 59% of high school graduates. In contrast, only 38% of women who had attended, but had not completed high school, and just 15% of those who had not gone beyond Grade 8, had jobs that year. (Table 3)
Regardless of their level of educational attainment, however, women are still less likely than their male counterparts to be employed, although the gaps are smallest among better-educated women. Among those with a university degree, for example, 75% of women, versus 79% of men, had jobs in 2006. Similarly, among those with a non-university certificate or diploma, 69% of women, compared with 77% of men, were employed. In contrast, women with less than a Grade 9 education were only half as likely to be employed that year as their male counterparts: 15% versus 30%. Part of these differences is explained by variation in the education and work experiences of different age groups. At the same time, though, these patterns generally hold among all age groups over the age of 25.
Women between the ages of 25 and 54 are currently more likely to be part of the paid workforce than women in other age ranges. In 2006, 77% of women aged 25 to 44 and 45 to 54 had jobs, compared with 60% of women aged 15 to 24 and 49% of those aged 55 to 64. This contrasts with trends in the late 1970s, when women aged 15 to 24 were slightly more likely than their older counterparts to be employed. In the intervening years, however, it has become more common for women aged 25 and over to participate in the labour force, while the employment rate of women aged 15 to 24 has changed relatively little. (Table 4)
Women between the ages of 25 and 54, however, are still considerably less likely than their male counterparts to be employed. For example, in 2006, 77% of 25- to 44-year-old women had jobs, compared with 87% of men in this age group. Similarly, 77% of women aged 45 to 54 were employed that year, compared with 85% of their male counterparts. These gaps, however, have closed significantly since the late 1970s, when women in these age ranges were only about half as likely as their male counterparts to be employed.
The gap between the employment levels of women and men aged 55 to 64 has also narrowed over the past quarter century. This is due to modest increases in employment rates among women, accompanied by a sharp decline in employment levels among men which may reflect, in part, the trend for men to retire at earlier ages. Women aged 55 to 64, though, were still considerably less likely than men in this age range to be employed in 2006: 49% versus 63%.
In contrast to older age groups, employment rates are similar for women and men aged 15 to 24. In 2006, 60% of women and 58% of men in this age range were working for pay or profit. This also represents a change from 1976, when young women were somewhat less likely than their male counterparts to be employed: 51% versus 60%.
There has been particularly sharp growth in the employment rate of women with children in the past quarter century. In 2006, 73% of all women with children less than age 16 living at home were part of the employed workforce, up from 39% in 1976. Women with children, though, are still less likely to be employed than women without children. That year, 80% of women under age 55 without children had jobs. (Table 5)
There have been especially dramatic increases in the employment levels of women with very young children. Indeed, by 2006, 64% of women with children less than age 3 were employed, more than double the figure in 1976 when only 28% of these women were employed outside their homes. Similarly, 69% of women whose youngest child was aged 3 to 5 worked for pay or profit in 2006, up from 37% in 1976.
Women with pre-school-aged children, though, are still less likely than those with school-aged children to be employed. Overall, in 2006, 66% of women with children under age 6 were employed, compared with 78% of those whose youngest child was aged 6 to 15.
Female lone parents are less likely than mothers in two-parent families to be employed. In 2006, 70% of female lone parents with children less than age 16 living at home were employed, compared with 74% of their counterparts in two-parent families. This represents a major shift from the late 1970s when female lone parents were more likely to be employed than mothers with partners. (Table 6)
In the intervening years, however, the employment rate of mothers in two-parent families grew steadily, surpassing that of female lone parents in the mid-1980s. However, in recent years, the proportion of employed lone mothers has increased substantially, jumping 20 percentage points between 1995 and 2006.
The presence of young children also has a greater impact on the employment of lone mothers than it does their counterparts with partners. In 2006, just 46% of lone mothers with children under age 3 were employed, compared with 66% of mothers in two-parent families. At the same time, among those whose youngest child was aged 3 to 5, 66% of female lone parents, compared with 70% of mothers in two-parent families, were part of the paid workforce.
A relatively large proportion of employed women work part-time. In 2006, more than 2 million employed women, 26% of all women in the paid workforce, worked less than 30 hours per week at their main job, compared with just 11% of employed men. In fact, women have accounted for about seven in 10 of all part-time employees since the late 1970s. (Table 7)
Young women are more likely than other women to work part-time. In 2006, over half (52%) of employed women aged 15 to 24 worked part-time, compared with around 20% of those between the ages of 25 and 54 and just under 30% of those aged 55 to 64. Women in all age groups, however, are far more likely than their male counterparts to work part-time. This is especially the case among those in age ranges over age 25. That year, for example, 19% of women aged 25 to 44 and 20% of those aged 45 to 54 worked part-time, versus only around 5% of men in each of these groups. (Table 8)
Most women who work part-time do so either because they do not want full-time employment or because part-time work is more appropriate for their personal situation. In 2006, 28% of women employed part-time reported they did not want full-time work and 27% indicated they were going to school. (Table 9)
Many women, however, work part-time because of childcare or other responsibilities. In 2006, just under one in five female part-time employees said they worked part-time because of personal or family responsibilities. That year, 15% said they did not work full-time because they were caring for children, while 4% reported other family or personal responsibilities as the reason they worked part-time. In sharp contrast, a total of only 3% of male part-time workers cited these reasons as why they did not work full-time.
At the same time, a substantial number of women work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment. In 2006, 23% of all female part-time employees indicated that they wanted full-time employment, but could only find part-time work. Women, though, were slightly less likely than men to work part-time involuntarily; that year, 26% of male part-time employees wanted full-time work.
The reasons women work part-time also vary considerably by age. Women aged 25 to 44, for example, were more likely than other women to work part-time in 2006 because of personal or family responsibilities or because they could not find full-time work. In contrast, women aged 15 to 24 were the most likely to work part-time because they were going to school, while those aged 45 and over were the most likely not to want full-time employment.
A growing number of women are self-employed. In 2006, close to 900,000 women, 11% of all those with jobs, were self-employed, up from 9% in 1976. In fact, self-employment has grown about as fast among women as it has among men in the past quarter century, though women are still less likely than men be self-employed: 11% versus 19% in 2006. Overall, women accounted for 35% of all self-employed workers that year, up from 31% in 1990 and 26% in 1976. (Table 10)
The majority of employed women continue to work in occupations in which women have traditionally been concentrated. In 2006, 67% of all employed women were working in one of teaching, nursing and related health occupations, clerical or other administrative positions or sales and service occupations. This compared with just 30% of employed men. (Table 11)
The proportion of women employed in traditionally female-dominated occupations, however, has slowly declined over the past decade. In 2006, 67% of employed women were working in one of these areas, down from 72% in 1987.
Most of the drop in the proportion of employed women working in traditionally female-dominated jobs since the late 1980s has been accounted for by declines in the share employed in clerical and related administrative jobs. In 2006, 24% of all employed women had these types of jobs, compared with 30% in 1987. In contrast, the share of women in teaching positions has risen from 4% to 6% in this period; at the same time, though, there has been little change in the shares of women working in nursing and related occupations or in sales and service jobs.
As well, women continue to account for large shares of total employment in each of these occupational groups. In 2006, 87% of nurses and health-related therapists, 75% of clerks and other administrators, 64% of teachers and 57% of sales and service personnel were women.
Women have, however, increased their representation in several professional fields in recent years. For example, women made up 52% of business and financial professionals in 2006, up from 38% in 1987. There has also been substantial growth in the number of women employed in diagnostic and treating positions in medicine and related health professions. In fact, women made up more than half (55%) of all doctors and dentists in 2006, up from 43% in 1987. Similarly, 71% of professionals employed in social sciences or religion in 2006 were women, compared with 61% in 1987.
Women have also increased their share of total employment in managerial positions. In 2006, 36% of all those employed in managerial positions were women, up from 30% in 1987. Among managers, however, women tend to be better represented among lower-level managers, as opposed to those at more senior levels. In 2006, women made up only 26% of senior managers, compared with 37% of managers at other levels.
Women also continue to remain very much a minority among professionals employed in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. In 2006, just 22% of professionals in these occupations were women, a figure up only marginally from 1987 when women held 20% of these positions. In addition, it is unlikely that female representation in these occupations will increase in the near future, because women continue to account for relatively small shares of total university enrolments in these fields.
There are also relatively few women employed in most goods-producing occupations in which few women have traditionally worked. In 2006, 31% of workers in manufacturing were women, as were 21% of those in primary industries and just 7% of those in transportation, trades, and construction work. The representation of women in the last category, however, has grown somewhat since the late 1980s, while that in manufacturing and primary industries was about the same in 2006 as it was in 1987.
Unemployment rates are currently slightly lower among women than men. In 2006, 500,000 women, 6.1% of all female labour force participants, were unemployed, compared with 6.5% of male labour force participants. In fact, the unemployment rate has been lower among women than men since the beginning of the 1990s, whereas the reverse was the case for much of the period from 1976 to 1989. (Table 12)
Young women are considerably more likely than other women to be unemployed. In 2006, 10.4% of female labour force participants aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, compared with just 5.6% of those aged 25 to 44 and 4.7% of those aged 45 to 64. (Table 13)
Young women, however, are still considerably less likely than their male counterparts to be unemployed. While 10.4% of female labour force participants aged 15 to 24 were unemployed in 2006, the figure was 12.8% among males in this age group. In contrast, women aged 25 to 44 and 45 to 64 were both about as likely to be unemployed as men in these age ranges.
Women in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec have higher unemployment rates than those in Ontario and the western provinces. In 2006, 12.9% of female labour force participants in Newfoundland and Labrador were unemployed, while the figure was 9.3% in Prince Edward Island, 7.5% in Quebec, 7.1% in New Brunswick, and 6.5% in Nova Scotia. In contrast, 4.9% of female labour force participants in British Columbia, 6.2% of those in Ontario, 4.4% in Saskatchewan, 4.1% in Manitoba, and 3.6% in Alberta were unemployed that year. Women are also less likely than their male counterparts to be unemployed in all provinces. (Table 14)
The most frequent reason given by unemployed women for leaving their last job was that they either lost their job or were laid off. In 2006, 39% of unemployed women fell into one of these categories. At the same time, 25% were labour force re-entrants who had not worked for pay or profit in the last year, while 12% were new job-market entrants who had never been employed. Another 5% of unemployed women had left their last job because they were going to school, 3% had left because of personal or family responsibilities, and another 3% had left because of personal illness. (Table 15)
Unemployed women, though, are less likely than unemployed men to have lost, or been laid off from, their last job. In 2006, 39% of unemployed women, versus 51% of unemployed men, had lost their job or been laid off. On the other hand, unemployed women were more likely than men to have been either new job-market entrants who had never worked for pay or profit or labour force re-entrants who had not been employed in the previous year. Unemployed women were also more likely than their male counterparts to have left their last job because of personal or family responsibilities: 3% versus 1%.
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