Rise up! For gender justice 

International Women’s Day 2024 

We are facing multiple crises all stacked on top of each other: Affordability, Care and Climate. And women are disproportionally impacted. They are the ones who bear most of the caring and household responsibilities and face impossible choices, every month, to make ends meet.  Workers, especially women, continue to see their wages falling behind while they struggle to pay rent, buy food, or afford medicine when their child gets sick.  

That is why this year, Canada’s unions are rising up for gender justice!

What we are rising up for

Gender justice means that everyone has equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities – regardless of gender.  Much needs to be done, and to get there, we need to eliminate the substantial barriers that women and gender-diverse people in Canada still experience.  Barriers like the gender pay gap, gender-based violence and harassment, sexism and discrimination on the job, and their unfair share of unpaid care and domestic work.  All of these are made even worse by the current affordability, care, and climate crises.

We’re rising up for gender justice by calling for urgent action to address the care crisis and make progress toward a vision for our country where everyone has the care they need, and the people who provide care are visible, valued, and supported.  

Canada needs a comprehensive and integrated care strategy to enshrine the right of every person to the care they need to live full and dignified lives, to reduce and redistribute women’s disproportionate responsibility for care, support paid and unpaid care workers, and strengthen Canada’s care economy across all sectors by investing in the public care services people depend on.  

We call on the federal government to ramp up investments in public care services and to form a Care Economy Commission to study, design, and recommend a care strategy for Canada that would: 

  • Create a broader and inclusive labour market strategy to achieve high-quality and equitable jobs in all sectors of the care economy;
  • Examine paid and unpaid care work and develop a roadmap to meet the increasing demands for care; and 
  • Reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work by improving access to public care services for children, the elderly and people living with disabilities. 
  • Swiftly pass the Pharmacare Act:  We did it! After decades of pushing the government, we now have the first step towards universal single-payer pharmacare. Accessing prescription contraception through a universal public pharmacare plan not only removes cost-related barriers, but it will allow women to confidentially obtain contraception without having to go through a partner’s or a family member’s insurance plan. This is an important milestone for gender justice in Canada.

Ready to rise up?  (https://showwecare.ca/take-action/ )

Why we rise up for gender justice

The impacts of the affordability crisis and the care crisis on women

  • Women are more likely than men to suffer from chronic poverty, work in minimum-wage and part-time jobs, and are responsible for most of the care of children.
  • Caring for family members, including children and elderly parents, more often falls to women, layered on top of their paid work. To compensate for this uneven division of labour, women are more likely than men to reduce their work hours or take time out of the workforce to care for family. As a result, women are overrepresented in part-time and minimum wage work. This has lifetime impacts, resulting in women having less retirement income and being more likely to live in poverty in old age than men.
  • Canada’s drug prices are now the third highest among OECD countries. Women are more likely than men to skip filling their prescription drugs due to cost.
  • In 2023 accessing childcare became more difficult. 26% of parents with children aged five and under who were not using childcare reported that their child was on a waitlist – up from 19% in 2022. The proportion of parents who reported having difficulty finding available childcare increased to 62% in 2023 from 53% in 2019
  • Overall, women are twice as likely as men to work part-time. Childcare responsibilities are a main driver for women aged 25 to 54 years old seeking part-time work.
  • 60% of minimum wage workers are women, 31% are immigrants (up from 21% a decade earlier) and 34% have a post-secondary degree or higher. 
  • Female-dominated sectors are seeing the largest increases in part-time or temporary work. Poor or no benefits are often a feature of precarious and part-time work adding an additional burden on workers, which women, especially racialized and immigrant women, are overrepresented.
  • In 2022, out of nearly 60,000 people who had not banked enough hours to qualify for regular EI benefits – despite having insurable earnings and a valid job separation, 3 in 5 were women.
  • Women are also unfairly impacted by rules that limit access to regular benefits if they are laid off while on maternity or parental leave.
  • Wage growth has not kept pace with inflation. Nearly 70% of the workforce in the education services sector is made up of women, who continue to see a decline in their wages even before taking inflation into account.

In 2024, women still earn less than men in nearly all occupations, including in sectors with the highest proportion of women. 

  • Discrimination in the workforce, systemic and structural racism, and the unequal division of unpaid care work are major drivers of the gender and racial wage gaps. 
  • On average, women earn 89 cents per dollar that men make; however, this amount varies among women. Racialized women earn 60 cents for every dollar that non-racialized men earn. Indigenous women earn 63 cents for every dollar that a non-Indigenous man earns. Using the median hourly wage, women with more severe disabilities make 77% of what men without disabilities make or 77 cents for every dollar.
  • Data from the Ontario Equal Pay Coalition shows that half of all trans and non-binary people earn less than $15,000 per year, and transgender women experience a 30% wage drop after transitioning.  

Workers, especially women, continue to see their wages fall behind while they struggle to make ends meet, provide shelter for their families, and put food on the table.

  • Over the past two years, asking rents in Canada have increased by a total of 22%, an average of $390 per month. The 8.6% increase in rents in 2023 followed a 12.1% increase in 2022 and a 4.6% increase in 2021.
  • As of 2022, the rental wage for a one-bedroom unit was higher than the minimum wage in most major cities across the country. 
  • Women are more likely to be food insecure – whether they are the main income earner or a single parent.
  • In 2022 families with a female major income earner were more likely to be food insecure compared to those with a male major income earner.
  • In 2022, more than six in ten (62%) of female lone parents with a disability reported food insecurity compared to 45% among male lone parents.   
  • In 2022, characteristics associated with higher food insecurity, regardless of income levels included women lone parent families, people living in rental housing, families with a major income earner who is Indigenous, Black Canadian, and families whose major source of income came from government transfers. 

Canada’s unions rising up for gender justice

So much of what we have accomplished when it comes to women’s rights and gender justice at work in Canada is a direct result of union activists working together to push for change. Sector by sector, workplace by workplace, in our communities and on the national stage, Canada’s unions have fought for equity and justice, not just for union members, but for everyone.

Unions have blazed the trail for equity and inclusion, leading to paid parental and maternity leave, the right to equal pay for equal work, and the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment. These are groundbreaking gains that workers of all genders from coast to coast to coast enjoy today.  

Union women often have better pay, earn the same as their male colleagues, have access to a pension, and have better benefits. Union women might have it better, but we will not stop there – Canada’s unions are committed to gender justice in all workplaces and communities, unionized or not.

We are proud of what we have accomplished for women and gender diverse people in the workplace and are committed to continuing to rise up for gender justice.

More ways to rise up