Many women workers in Canada still feel economic upheavals of pandemic

Decent work is still out of reach, especially for women in low-paying jobs
May 8, 2024

OTTAWA— The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out 35 years of women’s economic gains in two short months, and a significant number of women in the workforce today have not yet recovered, says a new report from The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

In Work in Progress: Women in Canada’s changing post-pandemic labour market, CCPA Senior Researcher Katherine Scott shows that women in higher-paying jobs are doing better than before the pandemic, but those in pandemic-vulnerable jobs and the caring economy are not.

“Women working in front-facing jobs, like food services and accommodation, took the biggest hit,” says Scott, who has been tracking women’s experiences in the workplace since COVID-19 rocked Canada’s economy in March 2020. Women in these kinds of jobs absorbed more than half of the job losses. And these sectors have still not recovered. Workers are scrambling to get by, working in low-paying, part-time jobs. The struggle is real.”

Women working in the care economy—such as in health care, child care and long-term care—are also facing punishing working conditions. In 2020, staffing shortages emerged almost immediately as care workers fell ill and struggled to balance the care load at work and at home.

“Hospitals and other community services are still having difficulty recruiting and retaining staff today,” Scott says. “Over time, there has been a decline in care workers in key service areas. Even women who have since returned to work are experiencing high levels of stress and burnout. It’s driving skilled care workers from their job.”

There is some good news for women working in professional services, public administration, and finance and insurance, who benefited from strong employment growth in 2021 and 2022. But even that good news is mixed.

Many of these women have been channeled into lower-paying jobs. The gender pay gap in professional services and in finance and insurance grew between 2019 and 2022 as male earnings growth outpaced that of women. Rising living costs are also negatively affecting women workers at the low end of the wage scale.

“Restaurant workers and grocery store clerks, for instance, made less in 2023 than in 2019,” says Scott. “It is also affecting younger women workers, between the ages of 20 and 24, who are facing rising unemployment. The imperative now is to apply the lessons of COVID-19 in service of a more resilient and inclusive labour market.” 

Work in Progress: Women in Canada’s changing post-pandemic labour market is available at:


For more information and interviews please contact: Amanda Klang, CCPA Senior Communications Specialist (Media & PR) at [email protected]