Canada can deliver gender justice for women by improving care

March 8, 2024

Canada’s unions are marking International Women’s Day by calling on the federal government to better support women navigating the ongoing affordability crisis and to remedy its gendered and intersectional impacts.  

The disproportionately high number of women living in poverty and their lack of access to care services are deeply interconnected. Developing a national, comprehensive strategy for Canada’s care economy would go a long way to easing the burden that care – both paid and unpaid – places on women.  

As Canada’s cost-of-living crisis continues, many workers and their families are struggling to manage the soaring costs of food, shelter and other essentials. Women and others who are disproportionately poor or low-income are being hit hardest. These challenges are exacerbated by the over-representation of women in low-wage, part-time and precarious jobs, and by their unpaid labour caring for children, aging parents and loved ones with disabilities.  

“This is about gender justice. It’s no secret that women perform the bulk of unpaid and paid care work, which pushes women into part-time, precarious, temporary, or minimum-wage jobs. The majority of minimum wage workers in Canada are women,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “The consequences of the unequal division of care work on women’s economic security are severe, and the current affordability and housing crises are making life even more challenging – especially for the most marginalized women.” 

Women face higher rates of housing insecurity, food insecurity, and are less likely to qualify for employment insurance. The statistics are even worse for women living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities: Indigenous, Black and women of colour, 2SLGBTQI women and nonbinary people and women with a disability.  

“It’s no wonder there are workforce crises in health care, childcare and other care sectors. Jobs caring for children, older adults and people with disabilities tend to be underpaid and precarious, and wages within the care economy are being eroded by inflation. These are jobs predominantly held by women, many of them immigrants and women of colour,” said Siobhán Vipond, Executive Vice-President of the CLC. “Addressing the care crisis will have a massive impact on women’s jobs, women’s incomes, and their labour force participation, which also benefits Canada’s economy.” 

Canada’s unions see a vision for our country where everyone has a right to the care they need, and the people who provide care are visible, valued and supported. The federal government must develop a comprehensive and integrated care strategy that would enshrine the right of every person to the care they need to live full and dignified lives, reduce and redistribute women’s disproportionate responsibility for care, support paid and unpaid care workers and strengthen Canada’s care economy across all sectors.  

Canada needs a Care Economy Commission to study, design and recommend a national care strategy that would:   

  • Create a broader and more inclusive labour market strategy to achieve high-quality, equitable care jobs;   
  • Examine paid and unpaid care work and develop a roadmap to meet the increasing demands for care; and   
  • Reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work by improving access to public care services for children, older adults and people with disabilities.  

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