Pandemic didn't create job disparity but revealed it, council suggests
‘Families and households depend on incomes from more than one member’
A jobless rate for women on P.E.I. that is almost double what it is for men shows the need for structural changes to provide women with more secure jobs, says the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
The unemployment rate for Prince Edward Island women rose to 19.4 per cent in June, while it fell to 11.2 per cent for men. That is close to where the rate for men was last summer, when there was no COVID-19 slowdown or travel ban.
"The pandemic has really highlighted some of the differences, in P.E.I. in particular, that affect women more than others," said Jane Ledwell, executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
"A lot of the work that women do in our economy is face-to-face with other people."
Those jobs are in some of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, including retail and hospitality.
Ledwell said the unpaid work that women do — bearing a larger share of responsibility for household management and the care of children and elders — can also make it more difficult to find the time to search for jobs and prepare for interviews when someone is trying to get back into the workforce.
In the long term, she said, the province needs to put supports in places for caregiving, and recognize the value of household management and other unpaid labour.
"There will not be any meaningful recovery in P.E.I. without restoring gender balance in the workforce, because families and households depend on incomes from more than one member," said Ledwell.
When the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey for May came out on June 6, Economic Growth Minister Matthew MacKay said he was "mortified" by the discrepancy between men and women.
When the June numbers came out on July 10, showing the gap widening even more, Natalie Jameson, the minister responsible for the status of women, told the legislature that the problem was a priority for all cabinet members.
That same day, CBC News wrote to the government to ask what was being done to address the disparity between jobless rates for women and men.
No response has arrived, despite three follow-up emails.