Employment: Issues Facing Women

  • Based on data from the LFS, women’s participation in the labour market increased by 60.4 percentage points between 1950 and 2015, from 21.6% to 82.0% (Chart 1).
  • The upsurge in women with breadwinning roles has been facilitated by interrelated social changes that include the evolution of norms regarding gender roles, particularly for wives and mothers, in the wake of the women’s movement; the invention of electric appliances that lessen the time required to perform housework; the introduction of the birth control pill and reduced fertility; the legalization of divorce, and later the removal of fault‑based grounds for divorce; and the expansion of educational and job opportunities with the shift from a manufacturing to a service‑based economy.
  • Research demonstrates that the labour supply of mothers is sensitive to variations in the cost of childcare.
  • Women generally perform fewer paid hours than men, as they tend to spend more time on housework and childcare.
  • The employment rate of married women (including those living common‑law) grew more than that of single, never‑married women or separated, divorced or widowed women (Chart 3). Specifically, the employment rate of married women grew by 33.5 percentage points between 1976 and 2015, from 44.6% to 78.1%. In contrast, the employment rate of separated, divorced, or widowed women grew by 18.3 percentage points over the same period, from 59.2% to 77.5%, while the employment rate of single, never‑married women decreased by 3.6 percentage points, from 79.4% to 75.8%.

  1. Baker, Michael, Johnathan Gruber and Kevin Milligan. 2008. “Universal childcare, maternal labor supply, and family well‑being.” Journal of Political Economy116 (4): 709‑745.
  2. Goldin, Claudia. 2006. “The quiet revolution that transformed women’s employment, education and family.” American Economic Review96(2): 1‑21.
  3. Martinengo, Giuseppe, Jenet I. Jacob and E. Jeffrey Hill. 2010. “Gender and the work‑family interface: Exploring differences across the family life course.” Journal of Family Issues21 (10): 1363‑1390.
  4. Statistics Canada. 2017. “Women and Paid Work.” Ottawa: Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14694-eng.htm