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Women have regained all job losses (and then some) from pandemic: RBC

Record 84 per cent of ‘prime-aged women’ participating in workforce
Despite women recovering pandemic-era job losses, wage gaps between genders remain persistent, according to RBC study | Morsa Images/Getty Images

A record proportion of women in their prime working age were active in the labour force last year – regaining all job losses brought on by the pandemic

A new RBC study found that the 84 per cent of women ages 25-54 – what economists at the bank describe as “prime-aged women” – participating in the workforce last year now even exceeds pre-COVID levels. 

The previous high came in February 2019, when 83.9 of women in that demographic were in the workforce.

But by April 2020 that plummeted to 78.1 per cent as the pandemic rattled industries in which RBC noted women play an outsized role, such as accommodation, food services and retail.

Gains have been inching upward since then and, as of January 2022, 84.4 per cent of prime-aged women are participating in the workforce.

“Still, there remains a nearly eight percentage point disparity between working age men and women’s participation rates – a gap that’s twice as wide for parents with young children,” the report authors noted on Thursday.

“And while more women are entering higher-paying industries, the gap between men’s and women’s pay remains virtually unchanged from before the pandemic.”

The bank estimated that if women were paid the same as men performing comparable jobs, Canada would add $18 billion to household incomes.

“Throughout the pandemic, more women have entered higher-paying industries such as finance, insurance, and real estate, and professional, scientific and technical services. But since more men have entered these industries too, women’s representation hasn’t moved much,” the report stated.

“Women still account for only 43 per cent of those in professional, scientific and technical services (finance, insurance and real estate is more balanced.) And we have yet to see women move the needle when it comes to representation in senior leadership positions, particularly in private sector industries.”

The report authors said affordable childcare initiatives, such as the deal struck between Ottawa and B.C. for $10/day childcare, would help close wage and participation gaps.

They also suggest new initiatives aimed at upskilling and recruiting women in the trades are needed to help improve equity within the labour market.

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