Unemployment

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic

Definition
The unemployment rate refers to the proportion of the labour force aged 15 and over (and for youths, aged 15-24) without a job during a specific period [1]. Long-term unemployment is defined as the percentage of the labour force that did not have a job at any time during the current or previous year [2]. Unemployment can be very difficult for individuals and families, due to the loss of work and income [3]. According to data from the Labour Force Survey, women’s unemployment rate has consistently been lower than men’s since 1990. In 2011, women’s unemployment rate was 7% whereas men’s rate was 7.8%.
 
 
Sex Issues
There is an association between unemployment and a greater risk of mortality and morbidity (physical or mental illness and use of health care services) at the individual and population level [4]. The relationship between unemployment and health is complex with the relationship between unemployment to illness stronger than illness to unemployment [4]. A 2006 study based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) found that the prevalence of major depression among both men and women was related to unemployment [5].
 
 
Gender Issues
Canadian men are more likely to be unemployed than women and men are more likely to have been laid off from their last job compared to women [7]. However, many women are underemployed (insufficient employment despite wanting to work more). In 2006, 23% of all female part-time workers stated they wanted full-time positions [8]. There are a higher proportion of female voluntary part-time workers because many women work part-time to accommodate household and family responsibilities [8]. 

Despite the increasing number of women entering the workforce, women have a lower incidence of long-term unemployment compared to men. For example, in 2003, the incidence of long-term unemployment among women was 8% compared to 11% among men [9]. Women’s higher involvement in the service industry and part-time work may help explain this gap due to turnover rates in these sectors. Men’s higher levels of participation in the workforce may also explain the greater incidence of long-term unemployment among men compared to women [9]. 
 
 
Diversity
Census data from 2006 show that unemployment rates are higher amongst immigrants (12%) compared to the general population.  Unemployment is highest among immigrants who have been in Canada for less than five years (30%) [3]. It takes approximately 10 years for the unemployment rate of immigrants to fall to the level of unemployment found among the general population [10]. 

Aboriginal people also have high levels of unemployment, with the 2008 rate being close to 15% [3]. Aboriginal women generally experience lower levels of unemployment compared to Aboriginal men in all age groups [11]. The high rate of unemployment among Aboriginal people is related to the legacy of colonization and racism [11, 12]. 

Women with disabilities also have high rates of unemployment. In 2001, the unemployment rate for women with disabilities aged 15 to 64 was 10%, which was double the rate compared to women without disabilities.  In the past, women with disabilities have had lower rates of unemployment compared to men. In 2001, 13% of women under the age of 35 were unemployed compared to 18% of their male counterparts [13].
 
 
Critique
Standard unemployment rates do not account for the significant proportion of women who are unable to seek work due to personal or family responsibilities and, therefore are not counted among the unemployed [14]. Unemployment data does not specify whether unemployed mothers have exited the labour market out of choice, are discouraged from finding work, or are unable to find suitable childcare in order to work for pay. Statistics Canada has developed a more comprehensive measure of unemployment, which accounts for discouraged workers, involuntary part-time workers and/or the underemployed, and those awaiting a recall to work for more than four weeks [15]. By this measure, women’s rates of unemployment are considerably higher than standard and exceed the rates for men [14]. However, this measure is not widely used and, thus, the barriers to women’s, men’s, Aboriginal peoples', and immigrants’ employment and the extent of their exclusion from paid work are often unacknowledged.
 
 
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health determinants > unemployment