Market forces advance prospects for women in the workforce: TD Economics

    TORONTO, Sept. 25 /CNW/ - Market forces will place women and men on more
equal footing in the workplace over the next three decades, ultimately
eliminating the 5 to 15 per cent wage gap that cannot be explained by factors
such as hours worked, productivity or occupational choice, according to a new
report by TD Economics (
    The authors of the report, Don Drummond and Beata Caranci, state: "Women
are exceeding men in university enrollment and are clustering within
service-oriented jobs. Both characteristics will reap an economic return as
globalization and aging populations keep domestic economic growth centered on
highly skilled service production. Employers will become increasingly reliant
on women to fill the skill shortages. For those who want to participate in the
labour force, markets will become a woman's best friend."

    Progress underway

    Women have already experienced improvements in earnings since the 1980s.
For instance, the number of women earning more than their spouses has tripled,
with 1.3 million women acting as the primary breadwinner among 4.6 million
couples in 2005. That means women out-earn men in more than a quarter
(28 percent) of Canadian families.
    This reflects a larger transformation underway. In the past three
decades, the participation rate for Canadian women in the prime working age
group (25-44) has jumped to nearly 82 percent from about 50 percent. Labour
force entry among women in the 45-64 age group has also been equally
impressive. Compared to other OECD countries, only Nordic and Swiss women are
more likely to be employed than Canadian.
    Women are also spending more time in the job market. It is now more
likely that a 30-year-old in the labour market will still choose to be on
employer payrolls at the age of 50. This is in part due to women bearing fewer
children and postponing the decision to have children at a later age in life.
This decision allows women to spend more time in the labour market and reduces
the costs associated with extended or frequent exits, as well as childcare.

    Education is the great equalizer

    Education is perhaps the most influential factor to higher, longer and
more rewarding labour market participation. The share of university degrees
granted to women has been rising steadily over the years, with women granted
the majority of Bachelor (BA) and Master (MA) degrees. For instance,
62 percent of BA degrees went to females in 2004.
    One area of little progress is within the fields of mathematics and
applied science, which research suggests as one of the factors keeping women
out of a number of well-paying jobs. When one looks at all levels of
educational attainment and fields of study, a mere 3 percent of the degrees
held by women are in the math field, which is unchanged from a decade ago.
Degrees in engineering and architecture also came in near the bottom of the
list at less than 4%. In contrast, the share of degrees held by men is 3-to-4
times greater than women within all of these fields of study.
    "Females don't start off life with a lower aptitude in these fields.
Tests of 13-16 years olds show that boys' edge over girls in math and science
is not statistically significant," said Ms Caranci who heads economic
forecasting at TD Economics. "Yet in later studies and in choices of
occupation females steer away from these disciplines. This suggests
environment and culture could play a significant role."
    In order to benefit from greater enrollment in these subjects at the post
secondary level, educators, governments, corporations and parents need to do
more to engage girls in math and science at younger ages. A number of
intervention methods, such as spending time with role models, making the
subjects more 'hands on', eliminating gender biases in the classroom or
separating girls from boys when teaching science and math, have proven
successful in boosting self-esteem and cutting through gender stereotypes or
other cultural barriers.

    New economy, new opportunities

    Mr. Drummond, TD's Chief Economist, points out that nearly 2 million jobs
were created for university educated workers since 1990, whereas only 417,000
jobs were available to those with a high school degree. He went on to say:
"Highly educated women were snapped up to the tune of 1.1 million, of which
80 percent of the jobs were in full-time employment."
    Moreover the knowledge economy means a steady shift towards
service-producing jobs, which now account for 75 percent of the entire labour
market. This bodes well for women, who gravitate towards sectors such as
health and education. These sectors already make up nearly one-fifth of total
employment, and in the case of health, likely to continue growing due to aging
    The TD report also notes a service-based economy will be of particular
benefit to entrepreneurial women. They make up 35 percent of self-employed
workers, up nearly 10 percentage points from the mid-1970s. However, within
the service sector, the concentration of women is higher at just over
40 percent.
    Women are also making inroads into traditionally male-dominated fields.
Since 1980, employment in the non-traditional women occupations of management
and professionals has risen by 93 percent. In professional disciplines where
women display a traditionally low representation, progress is still evident.
For instance, women represented just 25 percent of architecture and
engineering BA degrees in 2004, but this is up from just 17 percent in 1992.
    Other barriers remain intact. One study found that in corporate Canada
women held less than 10 percent of 'line positions', which oversee
profit-and-loss columns and as such are considered important feeding pools to
more senior positions. Little progress has also been seen at the board level,
where women make up about 12 percent representation. This situation is likely
to change as more young women are entering the corporate world, and in turn,
expanding the pool of potential candidates.

    A woman's work is never done

    One of the largest influences on the current wage gap between men and
women relates to the difference in working hours. For instance, women in
full-time employment work on average 4 hours less a week than men (38 hours
vs. 42 hours).
    Part of this gap arises from the push-and-pull of work and home life. The
migration of women into the labour market has not been met with proportionate
declines in home responsibilities. In spite of the surge of women
participation into the workplace, housework remains highly gendered. Women
shoulder a greater portion of the duties that are higher frequency and offer
the least flexibility, such as cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning.
    But a shift is definitely underway. Men are taking up some of the slack
at home as married women's participation in the workplace rises. And, as the
wife's income rises, the distribution of housework becomes more even. When
wives have an income of $100,000 or more, the division of paid labour and
housework between partners was more likely to be split equally. Men are also
taking on a greater role as the primary caregiver to their children. Families
with a stay-at-home parent have declined substantially since 1986, but the
proportion with a father in this role increased from 4 percent to 11 percent
in 2005. The authors of the report predict that "over the next few decades,
the market will place women and men on more equal footing in the workplace.
Employers will need to respond, and more men will need to learn to operate the
washing machine."

For further information:

For further information: Don Drummond, TD Economics, (416) 982-2556;
Beata Caranci, TD Economics, (416) 982-8067

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