Historical Look at Statistics: Issues Facing Women

woman in homeless shelter

International View: Canada loses status as the best place to live.

Not too many years ago, Canada prided itself on being the best place on earth to live. Now, we are lucky to be in the middle of the pack of OECD countries when it comes to income inequality. Canada’s inequality rate is about 33%.

  • National Overview: the widening gap between rich and poor
  • Since 1980 the earnings of the richest 20% of Canadians increased 16.4%; while the poorest 20% had a 20.6% drop in earnings.
  • The total average compensation for Canada’s highest-paid 100 CE0s was $7.3 million in 2008 compared with an average of $42.3 thousand for all Canadians.
  • Since 1995, tax revenue in Canada has dropped to 3% of GDP. This is a loss of nearly $50 billion a year in public revenue.
  • Canada’s 5 biggest banks avoided paying $16 billion in taxes between 1993 and 2005.

Labour force participation: Some women have always worked . . . like dogs

The number of women in the workforce in Canada has never been higher. The labour force is still sex-segregated, however, with women enjoying less access to jobs, lower remuneration and benefits. In addition, women who work outside the home are still doing the majority of unpaid childcare and domestic work at home.

  • 67% of women doing paid work are teaching, nursing or doing administrative work, compared to 30% of men.
  • Women occupy 37% of managerial positions and hold only 22% of senior positions.
  • 40% of working women compared to less than 30% of men work in part-time, contract, temporary or other non-standard work.
  • 26% of women working part-time what to work full time but cannot find full-time work.
  • Aboriginal women have twice the unemployment rate of non-aboriginal women.
  • 57% of Aboriginal women work part-time, or at other non-standard jobs. 47% of immigrant women work in non-standard jobs.
  • Two in three working women who pay into EI benefits do not qualify if they lose their jobs.
  • Women account for 7 out of 10 part-time employees, but less than half qualify for EI.
  • Women aged 25-44 with young children are the population least likely to qualify for EI benefits. 75% of employed women have children under 16. Many are single mothers who have difficulty getting EI.
  • One of three working women with newborns does not qualify for maternity or parental EI benefits because they are self-employed or have not worked for at least two years.
  • 17% of children under 12 in Canada have access to a regulated child care space. This drops to 12% outside of Quebec.

Feminized poverty: a woman’s work is never done

Women’s poverty is the result of social and economic practices that devalue women’s paid and unpaid work. Women working full time, year-round, earn 71 cents for every dollar earned by men. In the world’s 29 richest countries, Canada has the 5th largest wage gap between men and women.

  • Women raise children and care for family members with little recognition or financial compensation. Women’s vulnerability to poverty is increased by racialization age, ethnicity, physical and mental health, geography and immigrant status. Single mothers are the poorest family type with a poverty rate of 23% compared to 9% for all families.
  • Unattached women under sixty-five are also vulnerable to poverty with 36% falling below the poverty line compared to 28% of men.
  • Women are more likely than men to depend on public pensions as their primary source of income. The pensions of senior women amount to only 58% of what senior men have.
  • The poverty rate for Aboriginal women is 36%. 29% of racialized women live in poverty. African Canadian women are the poorest racialized group, with a poverty rate of 57%.
  • 29% of women with disabilities fall below the poverty line.
  • The overall poverty rate for women born outside Canada is 23%. Recent immigrants face a higher rate of 35%, due to racialization.

Social Assistance: struggling and juggling to survive

Social assistance programs are delivered by provinces and territories and funded through cost-sharing with the federal government. These programs have all suffered from cut-backs including reductions in allowances and more restrictive eligibility requirements.

  • Women make up more than half of the people receiving social assistance. Certain groups are more likely to have to rely on social assistance: women under 25 and over 55, single mothers, women of colour, Aboriginal women, especially those who live on reserves, women with disabilities.
  • 29% of working-age single mothers receive social assistance. 40% of women on reserves receive social assistance.
  • The monthly amount of social assistance has dropped in every province since the 1990s. Single employable people have lost up to 1/3 of their benefits.
  • Payments to single mothers have declined significantly in every jurisdiction in Canada. The highest loss – 32% – was recorded in Nunavut, the lowest – 3.8% – in New Brunswick, with the national average of a 16.5% loss in benefits.
  • Social assistance incomes are significantly lower than the Stats Canada low-income cut-offs. In Nova Scotia, for example, a single mother with one child receives a maximum of $784 monthly from social assistance which is $9,408 annually. The average LICO for a family of two is $18,543. Thus, the social assistance income is about 50% of the (LICO) poverty line.



  • Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action. Women’s Inequality in Canada. Ottawa: September, 2008
  • Osberg, Lars and Andrew Sharp. Economic Security in Nova Scotia. Halifax: GPI Atlantic. July 2008
  • Mikkonen, Juha and Dennis Raphael. Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Toronto: York University of Public Health. 2010
  • MacKinnon, Shauna. Fast Facts: Poor No More? The long hard climb back to economic justice. Manitoba: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. June 9, 2010