IWD 2022: Gender equality depends on a healthy care economy

March 7, 2022

Canada’s unions are marking International Women’s Day 2022 by highlighting the critical importance of care work, and calling for greater support for care workers and investments in Canada’s care systems.

“We all need care at some point in our lives. It is vital, skilled and life-sustaining work that supports our families, economy, and communities,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “However, the majority of this work continues to be performed by women and much of it is unpaid. If we truly want to achieve gender equality and build a more just society, care work must be part of the conversation.”

The federal government must address the care crisis by building and growing the care sector with good jobs that don’t rely on women’s unpaid work. Canada also needs a coherent strategy for care and increased investments in the care services and supports that people and families need. The federal government should create a Care Economy Commission to study, design and implement this strategy.

Care work refers to the tasks that are required to support the health, well-being, maintenance and development of people. This often includes caring for children, care for the elderly, care for people with disabilities, and domestic work such as cooking and cleaning to support families and individuals. Care work is part of our social fabric and allows all other work to happen. Despite this, care is not always seen as work and often goes unrecognized and undervalued ꟷ especially the work that is unpaid.

Globally, women perform more than three times as much unpaid care work as men. This heavy load means many women have less time to engage in paid work or education, or struggle to balance their paid and unpaid work. This “second shift” can impact women’s job choices or limit their chances of promotion. It can also negatively impact mental and physical health, and family stress.

“Our economy’s reliance on women’s unpaid care work contributes to women’s poverty and reduced lifetime earnings. Unpaid care work has long been filling gaps where social services and so-called “safety nets” have failed and cannot meet peoples’ basic needs. During the pandemic, this work has increased and has stretched everyone to a breaking point,” said Bruske. “This cannot continue. Those who give and receive care deserve better.”

“It’s no coincidence that care jobs in Canada are often low-paid, with poor job security and challenging working conditions. Care workers are mostly women, and many of them are racialized, immigrants or migrant workers,” added Siobhan Vipond, CLC Executive Vice-President. “Care work is undervalued, and often invisible, but absolutely essential to our economy. This is about women’s economic justice. Investments in care will not only ensure equal access to quality care for all Canadians, but also an equitable society in which women, and others who experience systemic oppression, can thrive.

Visit the action hub at canadianplan.ca for more information on how you can get involved.

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