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)

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

Lifestyle Cafe, located on South Fraser Way, opened its doors earlier this month. It aims to provide Abbotsford diners with healthy eating options. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Lifestyle Cafe arrives in Abbotsford

New establishment on South Fraser Way offering healthy food options

The Abbotsford Community Foundation has a total of $160,000 available to award in 2021 through its Agricultural Enhancement Grants Program. (Submitted photo)
Applications now being accepted by Abbotsford Community Foundation for agricultural grants

Total of $160K available for projects that support agricultural innovation

Surrey native Dylan Kinley, shown here with the Douglas College Royals, has signed with the UFV Cascades. (Douglas Royals photo)
UFV Cascades sign Surrey native Dylan Kinley

Tweedsmuir grad, Douglas Royals star joins Abbotsford-based team for 2021-22

Construction has begun on the new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford. (Screengrab from video by CHP Architects)
Construction begins on new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford

School, including childcare spaces, is set to open in September 2022

Bill Hireen joined Remembrance Day celebrations in Abbotsford in 2019. The veteran and long-time civic supporter passed away on Dec. 31, 2020. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Long-time Abbotsford city council supporter dies of COVID-19

Bill Hireen was a frequent visitor to council and police board meetings

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple who travelled to Yukon for COVID vaccine ineligible for 2nd dose until summer

The province is ensuring those eligible to receive the vaccine get the second shot within 42 days

(File)
Mask dispute in court leaves Vancouver cop with broken leg

Man allegedly refused to put on a mask and resisted arrest

(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Complicated, dangerous rescue saves man in avalanche near Cypress Mountain

North Shore SAR team braves considerable conditions to reach injured snowboarder

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
UPDATE: No sign of small plane that went down in waters south of Vancouver Island

Searchers out on both sides of border between Victoria and Port Angeles

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. (Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes

Most Read