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Women in a COVID-19 recession: Employment, job loss and wage inequality in Canada

Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident that the pandemic is not only a global health crisis but is also causing a global economic recession that is exacerbating pre-existing gender inequalities.

This brief analyzes how the pandemic’s economic effects impact women workers and the repercussions for gender equality in the Canadian economy. Canadian women workers suffered significant job losses over the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, raising important questions about the long-term implications of the recession on women’s employment and earnings.

• Almost 350,000 Canadian women who lost their jobs during the pandemic had not returned to work as of February 2021; consequently, women’s employment has fallen to a level not seen in the last two decades.
• Women lost a disproportionate number of jobs in those sectors particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
• Most job loss is concentrated in low wage occupations where women make up more than half those employed, suggesting a disproportionate economic impact on already low-wage earners.
• Low wages and a persistent gender wage gap contributed to women leaving the workforce. COVID-19’s economic impacts have stalled progress on closing the gender wage gap as it remains unchanged since February 2020.
• As women continue to be forced out of the workforce, the long-term implications for an equitable economic recovery are dire unless immediate and targeted policy actions are taken.

Shrma L and Smith J (2021) Women in a COVID-19 recession: Employment, job loss and wage inequality in Canada, Gender and COVID-19 Evidence Download


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