The employment rate for women with children has been steadily on the rise during the past three decades. In 2009, 72.9% of women with children under the age of 16 living at home were employed, nearly twice the rate of 39.1% recorded in 1976.
This analysis of paid work among women shows considerable change in their labour force activity during this period. In general, the employment rate for women has followed an upward trend since 1976, when it was 41.9%, although women are still less likely to be employed than men. In 2009, about 8.1 million women had a paid job in Canada. This represents an employment rate of 58.3% compared with 65.2% for men.
The employment rate for women with children under the age of 3 was 64.4% in 2009, more than double the proportion of 27.6% in 1976. Additionally, 11.9% of working women were self-employed in 2009, up from 8.6% in 1976.
While nearly three-quarters of employed women worked full time in 2009, women were more likely than men to work part time.
The majority of employed women continue to work in occupations in which they have been traditionally concentrated. However, they have increased their representation in several professional fields such as business and finance.
Economic downturn less severe on women
The impact of the recent economic downturn was less severe on women than on men.
Between 2008 and 2009, the employment rate for men fell 2.9 percentage points to 65.2%. This repeated a pattern set in the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s.
In contrast, the employment rate for women declined by only one percentage point in 2009, after reaching an historic high of 59.3% in 2008.
In 2009, the number of unemployed women rose to 608,000, compared with 487,000 in 2008 and 476,000 in 2007. The unemployment rate for women increased to 7.0% in 2009, the highest since 2003. But among men, it reached 9.4%, the highest rate since 1996.
Men were hit harder by the downturn because the industries hardest hit by employment losses in 2009 were male-dominated. They included those in the goods-producing sector, mainly manufacturing, construction and natural resources.
In contrast, more women worked in service industries, such as health care and social assistance, and educational services, where employment continued to grow.
More employed mothers
The employment rate among women with children has risen sharply over the past three decades. However, they are still less likely to be employed than women without children.
In 2009, 72.9% of women with children under 16 living at home were part of the employed workforce, compared with 80.4% of women under the age of 55 without children.
There has been steady growth in labour force participation among women with young children. In 2009, 64.4% of women with children under the age of 3 were employed, more than double the proportion of 27.6% in 1976.
Female lone parents are less likely to be employed than mothers in two-parent families. In 2009, 68.9% of female lone parents with children under the age of 16 living at home were employed, compared with 73.8% of their counterparts in two-parent families.
This represents a major shift from the late 1970s, when female lone parents were more likely to be employed than mothers with partners.
Women more likely to work part time than men
Nearly 7 out of 10 part-time workers in 2009 were women, a proportion that has changed little over the past three decades.
In 2009, 2.2 million women worked part time, that is, fewer than 30 hours a week at their main job. The share of women working part time rose from 23.6% in 1976 to 26.9% in 2009. In comparison, the rate for men in 2009 was 11.9%, less than half that of women, although it more than doubled from 1976.
In addition, a growing number of women are self-employed. In 2009, nearly 1 million women, or 11.9% of all those with jobs, were self-employed, up from 8.6% in 1976.
Self-employment has increased about as fast among women as it has among men in the past two decades, although women are still less likely than men to be self-employed.
Women accounted for 35.5% of all self-employed workers in 2009, up from 31.2% in 1990 and 26.3% in 1976.
Women still concentrated in traditional female occupations
The majority of employed women continue to work in occupations in which they have been traditionally concentrated, although the proportion has declined slowly over the past two decades.
In 2009, 67.0% of employed women worked in teaching, nursing and related health occupations, clerical or other administrative positions, or sales and service occupations. In contrast, 31.0% of employed men worked in these fields.
At the same time, women have increased their representation in several professional fields. For example, they comprised 51.2% of business and financial professionals in 2009, up from 38.3% in 1987. The share of women employed has gone up in diagnostic and treating positions in medicine and related health professions.
Women made up 55.2% of doctors, dentists and other health occupations in 2009, as well as 72.5% of professionals employed in social sciences or religion.