According to a B.C. study, published on Monday, July 6, 2020, in Canadian Public Policy, the pre-existing gender pay gap has created an incentive in many households for fathers to remain in the workforce. (Pixabay photo)

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

As the Canadian economy reopens amid COVID-19, mothers are much less likely to be back at work than fathers — a gender gap that has been widening since the pandemic began, new University of B.C. study has found.

UBC researchers analyzed Statistics Canada’s labour force survey, a set of data collected every month that provides the most current snapshot of the country’s labour market, to determine how the gender employment gap changed from February to May.

According to the study, published this week in Canadian Public Policy, the pre-existing gender pay gap has created an incentive in many households for fathers to remain in the workforce. The most recent data on the pay gap shows that women earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men in Canada.

The study looked at the gender, education level, and the age of the youngest child among 110,000 people. It did not include LGBTQ2+ couples.

READ MORE: ‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

Sociology professor Sylvia Fuller, who conducted the study with Yue Qian, said the results show the pandemic has not been the “great equalizer” for gendered employment culture, which has historically allowed for straight, white men to excel while pushing many women into domestic roles. 

“Yes, we’re all living with the threat of sickness and with fallout in terms of change to our daily lives, but just as some people have proved to be more vulnerable to getting really sick, some groups are more vulnerable economically and socially as a result of the pandemic,” Fuller said. “What we’re seeing here is mothers rather than fathers having their employment really dramatically impacted.”

The two researchers found the change has been particularly striking among less-educated parents.

For parents with high school education or less, whose children are elementary-school age, women’s employment trailed men by 1.6 percentage points in February. By May, that gap had multiplied more than 10 times to 16.8 percentage points.

Among university-educated parents, a gender gap appeared in the early days of the pandemic but was short-lived and had closed by April.

READ MORE: Flexible hours as new mothers re-enter workforce could ease wage gap

Overall, for parents of all education levels, the gap has gone from 0.8 to 7.3 percentage points for parents of school-age children, and from 1.0 to 2.5 percentage points for parents of preschoolers.

Since COVID-19 touched down in Canada – detected first in B.C. in February – work and school routines have been drastically disrupted, bringing economic uncertainty and widespread layoffs.

Even if parents weren’t forced out of work, daycares and schools shuttered their doors for months, leaving many needing child-care solutions. 

In addition to the exiting gender pay gap, incentives for fathers to remain in the workforce as mothers homeschool children include mothers being more likely to work part-time jobs in retail and hospitality making them most vulnerable to layoffs, the study shows.

Fuller said the data points to the importance of a robust and well-funded public child care sector and other policy measures that will help less-educated mothers return to the labour market.

“If this persists as the economy opens up, if parents are still facing a summer with limited child care available, summer camps being closed, and uncertainty with schooling in the fall, then there’s a real danger that the pandemic will open up fault lines in men’s and women’s employment that will increase inequalities for a long time to come,” Fuller said.

The federal government began quietly probing how child care fits into post-pandemic recovery in May but reform measures have yet to be announced.

ALSO READ: Feds probing ways to address COVID-19 impact on women


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Dupras family has been regulars at the Babine River and have seen plentiful grizzlies over the years. (Jay Dupras photo/Lakes District News)
A family’s close encounter with a grizzly on Babine River bridge

Photo-enthusiasts let the bear access the bridge for photos putting others at risk

The Burns Lake RCMP is investigating the incident. (Phil McLachlan photo)
Fatal collision between a pedestrian and train near Burns Lake

Police say the investigation is still ongoing

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

(Wet'suwet'en Access Point on Gidimt'en Territory Facebook screenshot)
Ceremony a right at proposed CGL pipeline drill site: BC Union of Indian Chiefs

Indigenous land defenders cannot be criminalized and targeted, argues UBCIC

(File graphic)
Man dies in Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh) after being taken into police custody

IIO and BC Corners Service conducting independent investigations

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of possibly decades-old airplane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of UBC geoscientists discovered the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read