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According to a report by RBC, the pandemic has knocked women’s participation in the labour force down from a historic high to its lowest level in more than 30 years. In April, women’s participation dipped to 55 per cent for the first time since the mid-80s. This is an issue for many reasons, but specifically because women are more likely than men to leave the labour market for good. Nearly half of newly unemployed women who lost their jobs were terminated and did not seek work, putting them at a higher risk of long-term job separation.
This means that Canada could see the biggest rollback in history of women’s rights and gender equity if left unchecked — and the job market might never be the same. According to Feminist Recovery, women represented a whopping 70 per cent of all job losses in the core demographics of 25-54 at the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Before COVID-19, women were already lagging behind in the labour market, despite achieving the same level of educational outcomes as men. In 2019, Canada ranked 25th on the World Economic Forum gender gap list because women are underpaid, work fewer hours, and are overrepresented in low paying jobs. The Feminist Recovery report states that 56 per cent of women workers are concentrated in occupations known as the 5Cs: caring, cashiering, catering, cleaning, and clerical functions. Throughout the pandemic these workers have been called heroes, but have not been provided with the proper compensation, protections and benefits.