Women facing 'disproportionate amount of the hardship' from COVID-19, says Opposition
'It's unacceptable for sure and there's some challenges that we've got to work through'
Members of the Official Opposition say the P.E.I. government needs to make women a priority after recent reports show they're being left behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During Wednesday's sitting of the legislature, Green MLAs Karla Bernard and Lynne Lund both highlighted that the economic impact of COVID-19 is much greater for women than men on P.E.I.
They pointed to the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey that was released Friday.
According to the report, more women found themselves out of work than men at the height of job losses in April, and fewer were able to get back to work as the economy began to recover in May.
The unemployment rate for Island women 25-54 in May 2020 was triple that of May 2019.
Women struggling to re-enter workforce
"This is further evidence that women are continuing to bear a disproportionate amount of the hardship without reliable child care," said Bernard.
"Many women will have difficulty re-entering the workforce. Just as we consider tourism an important economic driver, we must also consider child care an essential economic driver."
Bernard went on to ask Premier Dennis King if the need for reliable child care would be taken under consideration by government's economic recovery council.
"I would have to think of all the things that we are dealing with, I can't imagine many that are more important than this one," King responded, adding that child care would be a big part of the discussion when it came to P.E.I.'s economic recovery.
Minister 'mortified' by numbers
Lund picked up the questioning from there and said for Island women, the unemployment rate nearly tripled from the same time last year, while the rate for men largely stayed the same.
"What is your economic recovery plan for women to ensure they don't come out from COVID worse than they were when they started?" she asked.
In his response, Minister of Economic Growth Matthew MacKay said the issue is a top priority for his department and it's currently looking into what obstacles might be for women re-entering the workforce and how they can be dealt with.
MacKay said he was shocked when he saw the numbers.
"I was mortified. I couldn't believe it," he said.
"It's unacceptable for sure and there's some challenges that we've got to work through."