Thank you, committee, for the invitation.
My name is Paulette Senior. I'm president and CEO of the Canadian Women's Foundation, which is Canada's only national public foundation for women and girls, and one of the 10 largest women's foundations in the world. Our three decades of granting work has focused on moving women out of poverty and violence and into safety and confidence.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee to discuss the question of the government's pandemic response.
The mission of the Canadian Women's Foundation is transformative change in the lives of women and girls in Canada. The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted women. For this reason, we would like to encourage the government to ensure that women's safety, livelihoods and well-being are central to all parts of the pandemic response. Women have been put at risk—most severely, women from communities that are marginalized by systemic discrimination.
In terms of women's work during the pandemic, the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on women at work cannot be overstated. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that women throughout the country have been hit harder than men when it comes to job losses. There has been a 17% drop in female employment, compared with a 14.5% drop for men. Additionally, women aged 15 to 24 are suffering the most, with a 30% fall in employment. Overall, women earning the lowest 10% of wages experienced job loss at 50 times the rate of the highest wage earners. This type of granular data, which is revealed by intersectional gender-based analysis, is needed to support decisions on next steps.
In terms of women in the recovery, under the present economic conditions, women are falling out of the workforce. They have stopped looking for work due to high unemployment in their sector and/or the pressures of children not in school or day care. With uncertainty about how long this situation will continue, there is little confidence among these workers. Given that women have lost jobs more than men and are not regaining them, the government must ensure that ongoing plans take into account this disproportional effect.
Major sectors where women are affected directly will need special attention, as they take longer to rebuild. These sectors include retail, the care economy, the non-profit and charitable sectors and the service sector in general, including travel and tourism. Given the number of people who have lost work already, plans to stimulate the reopening of any economic sector cannot go ahead without guarantees that parents will be able to depend on a reliable child care plan. The foundation supports the work of the “Child Care Now” campaign, which advocates for affordable, high-quality early learning and child care to be available to all families. We know that this is key to women's economic security and to violence prevention specifically.
In responding to gender-based violence in the pandemic, stay-at-home orders increased the risk of domestic violence and decreased women's ability to leave abusive homes for the safety of shelters. Evidence of increases in gender-based violence is now clear all across Canada. In Ontario, the York Regional Police saw domestic incidents grow by 22% since COVID-19. The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses says that women's shelters are experiencing a 20% increase. Several provincial crisis lines have reported an increase of 30% in the number of calls they receive.
The organizations we work with are critical organizations when it comes to ending gender-based violence in Canada. From surveys and consultations with the sector, we know that since the start of the pandemic 92% of organizations of all kinds have seen an increase in gender-based violence. More than 50% have seen an increase of up to 30% in the demand for their services, and 67% have launched new services and programs to respond to the crisis, while 82% think that they will not be able to emerge from this crisis.
The government must continue to offer ongoing support to women's services. It has taken decades to build a sector that provides not only essential programming services but knowledge and advocacy that have put women's equality issues such as gender-based violence in the public eye and on the government agenda. We cannot afford to have the sector fail.
Before I finish, I would also like to bring to your attention three key recommendations for budget 2021 that we feel should be included in the response to the consultation. Any items in the recovery budget must have a GBA+ and intersectional analysis. There must be data to monitor the impact of the budget in terms of gender and intersecting identities.
Canada needs a stabilization plan for the non-profit and charitable sector, and funding to ensure thriving women's movements. Imagine Canada estimates that the cost to bring this sector into a strong recovery is $9 billion. Any stabilization fund must have an intersectional lens, with investments in diverse communities.
Finally, Canada needs to revitalize its social infrastructure through care-sector investments. This means strengthening social policies for long-term care, child care, violence against women and gender-based violence, and prioritizing investments in community and in state models.