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Working women are still a long way from equality [CA]

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Riley, Susan
Publication Date: 
8 Mar 2006

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Happy International Women's Day -- or not. It depends on what numbers you choose. Statistics Canada has helpfully published a 300-page survey this week called Women in Canada that charts modest progress and ongoing inequities -- a complex portrait that won't readily serve anyone's ideological agenda.

In fact, it is a relief to deal with numbers instead of political claims. The war against feminism hasn't been as successful in Canada as in the United States, where abortion rights are under renewed attack. But there are echoes in the recent child-care debate here of old antagonisms.

Against this backdrop, Stats Can confirms that working women in Canada still aren't quite equal: In 2003, they earned 71 per cent of what their male counterparts did -- a gap that hasn't changed in a decade.

The most significant shift in recent decades, perhaps, is the increased number of mothers of young children who are in the workforce.

This has direct impact on the child-care debate: It confirms that the stay-at-home moms Prime Minister Stephen Harper is targeting with his $1,200 family allowance are a distinct minority.

By 2004, Stats Can reports, 65 per cent of all women with children under three years old were working for pay, more than double the proportion in 1976. And 70 per cent of women with kids aged three to five worked in 2004, up from 37 per cent 30 years ago.

But the numbers do suggest that quality child care --often derided by Conservatives as "institutional" care --is hardly an elite demand. The real story: There aren't a lot of moms, or dads, who can afford to stay home full-time to take care of the kids. And an extra $100 a month isn't going to make it possible, either.

- reprinted from Victoria Times Colonist