Women responsible for most parental duties during pandemic, StatsCan survey suggests

Canadian women say they have performed most of the parental tasks in their household during the pandemic in a new study by Statistics Canada.

Advocate says women are exiting the workforce in alarming numbers

Most men and women surveyed said that women take on the lion's share of duties for homeschooling. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Canadian women say they have performed most of the parental tasks in their household during the pandemic.

The results were published in a new survey by Statistics Canada. 

However, the survey also showed that men reported that the majority of those tasks — such as staying home with the children or taking them to and from school and daycare — were split equally.

Fifty-one per cent of women surveyed reported that they were largely responsible for staying at home with the children while 51 per cent of men said the responsibility was shared equally by both parents.

Similarly, 55 per cent of women reported mostly being responsible for taking the children to and from school but 60 per cent of men said the task was equally divided between parents.

Sixty-four per cent of women reported that they bore most of the responsibility for schooling their child at home and 46 per cent of men agreed.

The report says that measures to combat the coronavirus have only deepened a pre-existing gender-based division when it comes to parenting.

"During the pandemic, women continue to report that they mostly perform these parental tasks including home-schooling and it's important to underline home-schooling because it represents an additional responsibility directly related to the closure of schools during the pandemic," Karine Leclerc, the author of the study, told CBC News.

"The measures to combat COVID like quarantine, self-isolation, school closures — all that intensified the parental tasks but also added new responsibility such as home-schooling."

The study, published Monday, uses data from a survey conducted from June 15 to 21 looking at gender differences in parental duties during COVID-19.

The report says that division of parental duties could also be impacted by employment status and work location. Men who were not employed or worked from home reported playing a greater role in playing with children, putting them to bed and home-schooling,  although it was still far less than women inside or outside the home.

"The unequal division of unpaid family work is not without effects; it has long been recognized as a driver of gender inequality as it has direct impacts on women's labour force participation, time spent at work, wages and job quality, and physical and mental health stressors," Leclerc wrote in her report. 

YWCA Edmonton CEO Katherine O'Neill said she wasn't surprised by the findings.

"We knew heading into the pandemic, before the pandemic, that women often took on a lot more of the parental roles at home. So to see it being an issue in the pandemic, when we see home-schooling and we see a lack of child care, to see that rise is not surprising at all," O'Neill said.

She said that's the reason why the YWCA has raised a red flag on how women are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 

Leaving the workforce

"The end result is that we're seeing a lot of women self-selecting and leaving the workforce — it's too much, it's too difficult," O'Neill said.

"And that is really concerning because those gains took decades to make." 

O'Neill urged employers to ensure at least half of the members of their decision-making bodies are women or gender diverse.

"You're going to have better outcomes if the perspective at the table includes women," O'Neill said. 

She also called for more child-care spaces with increased flexibility around hours of service.