Investing in care for gender equality

October 7, 2019

Today, on the twelfth annual World Day for Decent Work, Canada’s unions are calling for a federal task force on care work and care jobs in Canada.

The World Day for Decent Work is a global day of action for trade unions around the world. The theme for 2019, Investing in care for gender equality, recognizes that work in the care sector remains significantly undervalued, despite a growing demand.

The majority of workers who provide care for children, sick or elderly adults or people with disabilities are women. Many care workers are racialized, new to Canada, or working here temporarily.

Canada’s low investment in care, with the expectation that women will care for loved ones, unpaid, is a huge barrier to increasing women’s workforce participation, to tackling the gender pay gap and to achieving equality between women and men at work and in society.

Care work is characterized by poor pay and bad working conditions. These jobs are often precarious, offer little to no benefits or job security, involve long hours and heavy, challenging workloads.

Workers in the care sector experience astonishingly high rates of violence and harassment, including physical and sexual violence. Many care jobs are informal, leaving workers without the protection of employment or health and safety legislation, access to employment insurance or CPP.

A task force on care work would:

  • Examine paid and unpaid care work;
  • Develop a federal strategy to meet the increasing demands for care;
  • Reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work by improving access to public care services; and
  • Create a labour market strategy for care jobs.

Investing in the care economy by providing universal and affordable access to care services would double down on the benefits to gender equality in Canada – by creating good jobs for women with fair compensation and safe, decent working conditions, and by making it possible for more women to get a decent job and support their families.

Without a significant investment in our already-stretched public care services, women will most likely be left to pick up the slack.

It’s time to build and grow the care sector and promote decent work for care workers.

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