I wanted to say that, to stay within the time limits, I will not read the entire four-page brief I submitted. I will skip some paragraphs of the brief to stay within my seven minutes.
That was a comment for the interpreters.
On behalf of Afeas, the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, I want to thank the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women for inviting us to participate in the hearings related to its study on the economic security of women in Canada.
First, I will give you a brief overview of Afeas, and then I will talk about the two main areas that the government should focus on when implementing solutions to prevent Canadian women from being at an economic disadvantage their entire lives.
Afeas is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1966. It represents 8,034 Quebec women who work as volunteers in 225 local groups in 11 regions of Quebec.
Since its inception, Afeas has been striving toward gender equality in every sphere of society. That is the organization's main goal, and as a result, it works on various issues affecting women in Quebec and Canada such as: gender equality, including women's ability to access democratic institutions at all levels; the financial security of women throughout their career and after they retire through the recognition of the unpaid work women do within the family as mothers and caregivers; access to education and training, pay equity, non-traditional jobs, and measures to support a work-school-life balance; access to safe living environments and measures to address violence against women and girls.
Afeas believes that both the paid and unpaid work of Canadian women must be taken into account in order to ensure their economic security.
Since its inception in 1966, Afeas has been considering what impact the lack of recognition for women's work has on our society. In 1968, Afeas presented the information it collected on homemakers to the Bird Commission.
One of its first campaigns sought recognition for the contributions women make to family businesses run by their husbands. In 1974, Afeas succeeded.
Other campaigns followed, and progress was made toward improving the living conditions of women in Quebec and Canada.
Some 35 years later, on April 1, 2001, Afeas created Invisible Work Day. As part of this annual campaign, which is held the first Tuesday in April, Afeas educates the public and decision-makers about the social and economic value of invisible work. Afeas believes that, if the contributions that women make within the family and community—which are essential to our society—were recognized, then social and financial measures could be implemented that would prevent women from living in poverty.
On April 1, 2010, at the request of Afeas, MP Nicole Demers moved the motion to make the first Tuesday in April National Unpaid Work Day. Although this motion was adopted, no action has yet been taken to implement it.
Here are a few recommendations concerning unpaid or invisible work.
First, the Government of Canada should make the first Tuesday in April National Unpaid Work Day, add it to the calendar of national days and acknowledge it every year.
Second, Statistics Canada should assess and calculate the value of unpaid work in Canada to show how important it is to the gross domestic product using the 2015 General Social Survey on Time Use. This calculation has not been done for 25 years, since 1992.
We also recommend that Statistics Canada make sure that the question regarding household activities is included in the 2021 long-form census, so that the people responding to it would be aware of how much of that type of work they do every day.
In addition, we recommend that the federal government ensure that all laws, policies and programs undergo gender-based analysis in order to determine how they will affect women, particularly their economic security.
Moreover, we recommend that the Government of Canada adopt a policy on work-life-school balance that applies to all spheres of society, including public institutions and private businesses under federal jurisdiction.
Next, we recommend that the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories to create a family insurance plan that would cover mothers or fathers when a child is born or adopted, as well as caregivers when they have to take time off work to care for a loved one who is sick, has a disability, or is losing his or her autonomy.
We also recommend that the federal government work with the provinces and territories to create a national child care program to give women access to affordable child care and allow them to return to the labour market, if they so desire.
When it comes to the last two measures, every province and territory must have the option of opting out of this program, under the appropriate agreements, as was the case in Quebec when the Quebec parental insurance plan was implemented in 2006. Similarly, since Quebec has its own child care program, it does not need a national program.
We also recommend that the Canadian government provide retirement benefit credits equivalent to 60% of the average industrial wage for the period an individual spent caring for a young child or a loved one, if that person does not have any employment income.
Finally, we recommend that the federal government turn non-refundable tax credits for stay-at-home mothers and caregivers into refundable tax credits.
I would now like to talk about paid work.
There was a major influx of Canadian women into the labour force in the late 1960s. At that time, employers considered these women's contributions to the family as complementary to those of their husbands and, therefore, paid them less.
Still today, women generally continue to earn less than men, even for the same work. This lack of pay equity affects many women and has an impact on their economic security throughout their lives. They are negatively affected when they claim benefits, such as maternity, parental or retirement benefits.
In its brief, Afeas gives you a few recommendations on paid work.