Blog: A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada
Written by Natty Klimo
A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada: Making the Economy Work for Everyone was recently published by the YWCA Canada and the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
The recovery plan explains ways that systemic racism and unequal distribution of power, wealth, and resources have made particular populations, such as women, gender diverse individuals, people with disabilities, immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and Black people more vulnerable during COVID-19.
The report proposes an equitable post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan that considers everyone’s needs, including women and other underrepresented groups, built on eight pillars. The report offers corresponding policy recommendations for all levels of government to consider when planning for Canada’s economic recovery.
The Gendered Impacts of COVID-19
Previous recessions have generally impacted male-dominated industries. During these “he-cessions,” women were able to help provide for their families when their partners were laid off, but COVID-19 has triggered a “she-cession” because more women than men have been affected by the current economic downturn. As of July 2020, more women have been infected by COVID-19 (56% of cases) and more have died (54% of deaths) as a result of the pandemic. These numbers are not surprising given that more women work frontline jobs. More women have lost their jobs (63%) since March 2020, and as the economy began to reopen in May 2020, more men were able to return to work (2.4% increase) compared to women (1.1% increase).
The service and caring sectors, which predominantly employ women, have been significantly more impacted than other sectors. Canadian women make up 81% of the health care and social services workforce, and 51% work in occupations that involve supporting others (e.g. cleaning, clerical, cashiering, etc.), which are considered essential to society and the economy. More women than men work in these types of essential jobs which has resulted in more women losing their jobs, while others are less likely to return to the workforce due to limited job availability or an increase in their caregiving responsibilities as result of school and daycare closures.
Eight Pillars for a Feminist Economic Recovery Plan
Pillar 1: Intersectionality: Understanding Power
A recovery plan for Canada must be developed using a gender-based and intersectional approach that considers race, class, gender, and other intersecting identities that may exasperate marginalization, oppression, privilege, and power dynamics. A gender-based and intersectional approach provides an understanding of how policies affect people differently and how to reduce social inequities when developing COVID-19 related policies and measures.
Pillar 2: Addressing Root Causes of Systemic Racism
COVID-19 has affected many racialized groups, including Black and Indigenous communities. Systemic racism and prejudice limit the socio-economic opportunities for Black and Indigenous people. This is especially the case for racialized women who typically earn less than their male counterparts and work essential and frontline jobs.
Pillar 3: Care Work is Essential Work
The pandemic has highlighted the value of paid and unpaid care work that women have traditionally taken on, and who are now experiencing additional unpaid work through home and home-schooling responsibilities. According to studies, Canadian women spend more time than men on cooking and cleaning, and racialized women are disproportionately affected by having to provide extra care at home and are therefore less likely to return to work due to caregiving responsibilities.
Pillar 4: Investing in Good Jobs
Job inequity between those who have employment that offers a stable income and the ability to remain safe, and those who lack the same workplace protections has been evident. This is especially the case for Black and other racialized women, and immigrant women who often work as support workers, custodial workers, or have other low paying occupations without sick leave benefits, and for gig workers who may be ineligible for government income supports.
Pillar 5: Fighting the Shadow Pandemic
Before the pandemic, violence was a concern for many communities, such as trans women, Two-Spirit, and gender diverse individuals. During the pandemic, there is evidence of an increase in domestic violence cases reported by women, and a surge in shelter use. Other underrepresented and racialized groups, such as East Asian and Chinese communities, have also experienced an increase in racism and violence due to the pandemic. A survey of 500 Canadians of Chinese ethnicity revealed that they had been insulted (50%), threatened (43%), and exposed to racist comments on social media (30%) as a result of the pandemic.
Pillar 6: Bolstering Small Businesses
Many small business owners have been significantly affected by COVID-19 and require support, especially women and other underrepresented groups who often own businesses in the service industry.
Pillar 7: Strengthening Infrastructure for Recovery
The pandemic has highlighted the need for safe and affordable housing, universal access to clean water, and equitable access to the internet. Increasing the supply of affordable housing is key, especially with critical physical distancing measures in place. Clean water is essential to health, especially for Indigenous communities, and ensuring everyone has access to the internet is vital for low-income individuals and rural communities during a time when more businesses have transitioned to remote work.
Pillar 8: Diverse Voices in Decisions
Planning and implementing Canada’s economic recovery requires a gender-inclusive strategy that considers perspectives from Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities; women; people with disabilities; the LGBTQ2S+ community; as well as newcomers, immigrants, and refugees.
Understanding how our current economic downturn affects different populations and communities is important to ensure current and future policy development is conducted equitably—to see that everyone’s unique needs are considered and accommodated.
Within the federal government, there is a growing recognition that women and other underrepresented groups are at a greater disadvantage during the COVID-19 pandemic. On September 23, 2020, the Speech from the Throne acknowledged the negative impact the pandemic has had on women. The government has committed to creating an Action Plan for Women in the Economy guided by a feminist and intersectional approach to respond to the “she-cession.”
The Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada comes at a good time, providing the federal government with an opportunity to consider the proposed pillars and recommendations when developing new policies and action plans for a more equitable recovery.
About the Author:
Natividad (Natty) Klimo holds a Master of Arts in Integrated Studies with a focus in Equity Studies and is currently a freelance writer. She has eight years of previous experience working for the Alberta Government as a policy analyst focused on research, writing, and policy development. Natty Klimo has also written for ESPC’s August 2020 edition of the Research Update!