Women struggle to get back to work in Canada as 'she-cession' weighs

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a "Help wanted" sign at a retail store in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Women are having a harder time than men returning to Canada’s labour force as persistent childcare issues weigh, and jobs in the male-dominated goods sector return faster than those in the service industry, data showed on Friday.

Total employment increased by just 1.1% for women in Canada in May, compared with 2.4% for men, the Statistics Canada agency said. Men were also more likely to have recovered jobs lost in March and April due to temporary COVID-19 shutdowns.

Canada unexpectedly gained 289,600 jobs in May, with the jobless rate hitting a record 13.7%. [L1N2DI0NB]

The service-sector, which generally requires face-to-face interaction, is traditionally more female dominated.

“I think it would be fair, as some economists say, to describe the recession we are currently experiencing as a ‘she-cession,’” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Friday.

Freeland said Ottawa is working with the provinces on safely reopening childcare “because for women, for mothers, without childcare it’s impossible for them to go back to work.”

Among parents with at least one child under the age of 6, men were roughly three times more likely to have returned to work than women, Statistics Canada data showed. Women with children under 18 were also more likely to be working less than half of their usual hours.

Canada’s 13 provinces and territories have been gradually reopening their economies in recent weeks, and the Canadian economy is starting to show green shoots after the coronavirus pandemic forced provinces to shut down businesses and caused a record plunge in economic activity.

“Just as women took the brunt of the downturn, they’re likely to see the upturn in labor markets arrive more slowly than men, and you see that already,” said Brett House, deputy chief economist at Scotiabank.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson and Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Aurora Ellis