Canada’s economy would be a quarter trillion dollars smaller without women, a study by economic analysts at the Bank of Montreal (BMO) recently revealed.

The team at BMO, comprised of three men and two women, assessed Canada’s economy over the last 40 years to try to determine the impacts of women joining the workforce and they came up with some interesting findings, HuffPost Canada reported.

For starters, more and more women are joining the workforce.

From 1953 to 1990, Canada saw a steady increase in women participating in the workforce, rising from about 24% in 1953 to 76% in 1990, according to Statistics Canada.

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This rate reached 82% in 2014 (compared with 91% for men). By then, women made up 47% of Canada’s workforce.

BMO Senior Economist Sal Guatieri estimates that if the percentage of women working had not changed since 1976, Canada’s economy would be 12% smaller, HuffPost Canada reported.

That 12% is equivalent to about a quarter trillion dollars, Guatieri told HuffPost Canada.

"If women didn't enter the workforce over the past four decades (like they did), there would be fewer skilled workers and therefore lower productivity growth," Guatieri told HuffPost Canada.

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Among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, Canada is in 8th place for female participation in the labour force, HuffPost Canada reported.

That placement is pretty high, but workforce issues still remain.

“I certainly do not accept the argument that [Canada] should be 15th out of 29 OECD in terms of pay gap between men and women. We absolutely can do better,” Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau said at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

BMO found that the participation rate of women aged 15 to 64 is lower than men, but when you look at the numbers around Canada’s youth, there is seemingly no disparity.

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Females in this age group are actually slightly more likely to be in the workforce — 63.7% versus 63.5% as of January, according to HuffPost Canada.

Still, women face specific barriers in the workplace.

In 2015, women employed full time earned about 10% less than men. Mothers made 15% less than men and 5% less than women without children, according to a Catalyst report.

Canada’s new parental leave option hopes to somewhat address this issue.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that making it easier for a second parent to take time off after a baby is born would limit the obstacles women face at work in relation to having children, like being passed over for a job promotion because managers fear they will be more invested in family, for example.

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“Women have an expectation laid on them that they will be much more involved in raising kids,” he said at a forum at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, India in February. “That challenge… will lead to different decisions by a manager or by whoever is doing the hiring, which is one of the reasons why, yes, we’re moving forward on pay equity legislation, but we’re also looking at other things.”

The new parental leave unveiled in Canada's 2018 budget encourages secondary parents to take up to five weeks off with their newborns. Implemented last December, new parents can now choose to take 12 months or 18 months of combined maternity and parental leave. 

The possibility of a longer leave and options for secondary parents could also potentially mean that new parents will be able to spend less on childcare.

The participation rate for women 25-54 (“prime working age”) in Quebec is four points higher than Canada’s average, according to BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic.

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"To put that in perspective, if the rest of the country saw female participation in that age group rise to Quebec levels, roughly an additional 400,000 women would be added to the labour force," Kavcic told HuffPost Canada.

Kavcic said that Quebec’s success can be attributed to the province’s subsidized daycare program that charges just $7 per day.

In fact, he said that the province’s female participation rate increased significantly around the launch of the program.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including issues related to women’s economic empowerment. You can take action here.


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