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The status of women in Canada's labor force.

Almost 2 million women joined the Canadian labor force during the 1970's and about half entred male-dominated fields, according to a study on the role of women in the economy published by the Economic Council of Canada. Authors of the study state that although there was an increase in the number of women who attained higher education, worked more hours, and entered nontraditional occupations, their progress was offset by a larger number of those who had secondary school education, received lower earnings, and entered traditional occupations.

In 1971, the participation rate for women was 33.9 percent and by 1981 it was 52.9 percent (compared with 76.4 percent and 79.4 percent for men). All of the age groups increased their participation rates except those in the 65-and-over age group. Those in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups had the largest increase--almost 50 percent, while those 15-19 participated almost as much as their male counterparts (51.2 percent, compared with 55.0 percent).

The authors, Jac-Andre Boulet and Laval Lavellee, state further that although the participation rates of women with children increased sharply, those who had few or no family responsibilities made up 83 percent of the increased number of women in the labor market. The reason for this activity is the slight decline in the number of working age women with preschool children and the 30-percent increase in the number of other women without such responsibilities.

Education played a major role in the economic status and labor force participation of women. In 1972-73, 39 percent of the total undergraduate student population was made up of women, and by 1981-82, the figure increased to 47 percent. those women in the Master's and Doctorate programs increased their number from 28 percent to 42 percent in the same periods, and tended to fare better in the labor force in terms of occupations and earnings. The participation rate of women with a bachelor's degree or diploma below a bachelor's increased 12.7 percent, the highest increase of all the educational attainment levels among women as well as men.

During the 10-year period, the number of women in the 20 highest paid occupations quadrupled--32,050 to 125,755--while that of men only doubled. However, in the 20 lowest paid occupations, the number of women almost doubled--750,000 to 1,175,430--compared with the relatively small increase for the men.

Earnings were another area in which Canadian women enhanced their status. In 1970, the average annual earnings of women were 51.2 percent of men's, by 1980, the average was 54.4 percent. However, in terms of average hourly wages, the female-male earnings gap narrowed from about 66 percent that of men to almost 72 percent during the same period.

One out of six families was headed by only one parent, and five out of six single-parent families were headed by women. Earnings of these women were very low, and transfer income was low such that most of them were in poverty.

The financial status of women during preretirement and retirement is also discussed in the study. Mainly, women face more financial hardships during their retirement years than do elderly men because they earned less than men, lacked coverage in employer-sponsored pension plans, worked fewer hours or had more part-time jobs, and they tended to work in nonunionized companies which do not have pension plans. Moreover, those women who lived alone, mainly widows, were among the most impoverished.

In an attempt to remedy the difficulties that women face in the labor market, Canadian governments have either proposed or adopted recommendations such as: equal pay for equal work; training for women re-entering the job market, with emphasis on nontraditional occupations; expansion of part-time work and job sharing; professional development courses; adequate day care centers; and parental leave.

In conclusion, the authors state that if current trends in Canada's labor market continue, there will be "an even more dramatic improvement in the economic status of women" in the 1980's.

The report, The Changing Economic Status of Women, is available from Canadian Government Publishing Centre, Supply and Services Canada, Ottawa, Canada K1A 0S9, for $8.35.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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