Women being asked to disproportionately pay for the deficit

There’s a study beckoning to be done: the impact of the Drummond Commission report on women.

On this International Women’s Day we face an unprecedented attack on the public sector – a sector in which employment belongs 60 per cent to women.

In health care, that number is even higher – 82 per cent.

While there is much talk about sharing the pain from the last recession, the reality is those who rely the most upon public services and those who deliver them are really being asked to shoulder the cost. More often that not, these are women.

It was important to save the auto industry when thousands of jobs were at stake. It is important again to stand up to companies like Caterpillar when they take public money, shut our local plants and flee across the border to low wage destinations. These high profile battles are also about jobs that were mostly occupied by men.

Are we going to see similar attention and solidarity when sectors predominately dominated by women start shedding jobs in the thousands? When the Scarborough Hospital recently shed 85 unionized jobs – most of them nursing positions – there was barely a ripple in the media.

And it’s not necessarily all about losing jobs.

One of the focuses of the Drummond Commission report is on the shifting of services – and jobs – from hospitals to community-based agencies. These are also shifts away from better paying and more secure forms of employment. Again, these are jobs that primarily affect women.

That transfer of jobs also means the likelihood of more part-time employment. 30 per cent of the female workforce is already part-time, compared to 10 per cent for males.

The public sector is one area where pay equity has been successfully implemented and continues to be maintained. While the law also applies to the private sector, it has been much slower to embrace it. Privatizing these jobs is likely to widen the gap between what men and women earn.

A 2010 Statscan study noted that Canadian women are graduating from post-secondary studies in larger numbers from men. Canadian women have an 11 per cent higher graduation rate for college programs and 18 per cent for university degrees. Yet this fact has barely made a ripple in the difference in overall earnings. Among graduates from post-secondary education, Canadian women were earning 63 per cent of similarly educated men.

Men represent more than three-quarters of all tax filers over $100,000.

It is interesting to note the two medical procedures Don Drummond singled out as being too frequently performed in Ontario were C-Sections and hysterectomies.

Salimah Valiani, an economist at the Ontario Nurses Association, suggests that governments should undertake a gender-sensitive budget, recognizing the disproportionate impact of both spending and revenue options on gender.

Looking at it through that lens, much of what Don Drummond has recommended in the way of reforming public services would not fly.

On this, International Women’s Day, is anybody up for taking this on?

One response to “Women being asked to disproportionately pay for the deficit

  1. The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women/Institut canadien de recherches sur les femmes (CRIAW/ICREF) has applied for funding to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to create a network on Changing Public Services which would do gendered and intersectional analysis of the changes to public services between 2008 and 2015. If we are successful in getting the funding (we should know in the next month or two) we will be looking for partners to work with us on this type of analysis. The Drummond report looks like an excellent case study as well. If you are interested, please contact us at: info@criaw-icref.ca or check out our work at http://www.criaw-icref.ca/.

    Deborah Stienstra
    CRIAW/ICREF Board Member
    Professor, Disability Studies University of Manitoba

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