With many women out of work, the YWCA of Greater Vancouver hopes the federal government follows through with its promise to help women return to the workforce in a way that takes issues like race and sexual orientation into account.
"They promised a diverse task force, and that really is key," said Amy Juschka, director of communications and advocacy for YWCA Metro Vancouver. "These identities really inform how women are experiencing the pandemic."
In Wednesday's throne speech, the Liberals promised a plan to help women get back to work, highlighting "a feminist, intersectional response" to its pandemic recovery.
Intersectionality refers to a way of recognizing a person's overlapping identities, such as class and gender, to better understand the challenges they face. While Juschka applauded the government's nod to intersectionality, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney referred to the academic theory as "kooky" in his criticism of the speech.
Since the pandemic's start, more Canadian women have lost jobs than men, in part because they dominate the hard-hit service sector. That's prompted some to dub the present downturn a "shecession."
According to a report from RBC Economics, female participation in the Canadian workforce — or the share of the working-age population that is working or looking for work — fell to 55 per cent in April, a level not seen since the mid-1980s.
"It's really, really troubling," Juschka told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.
"All of these decades of really hard-fought wins are at risk right now."
Juschka said the government could embrace intersectionality by breaking down information collected about Canadians into specific categories like ethnicity and income level, which can reveal inequities missed by broad categories.
One of the biggest barriers
In recent days, governments in both Ottawa and Victoria have re-emphasized a commitment to affordable child care — an issue widely seen as a lynchpin of economic recovery.
"It's one of the biggest barriers to gender equity in our country," said Juschka. "With child care, women can return to work. They can advance their careers. It just takes so much of the stress off of women."
The throne speech signalled a plan to make a "significant, long-term, sustained" investment in a national early learning and child-care system.
Meanwhile, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan promised Thursday to expand his government's $10-a-day child care program, which critics say has not gone far since its launch in September 2018.
The NDP told CBC News that more than 32,700 children have accessed child care for $10 a day or less in the past two years.
Thanks to a prototype $10-a-day childcare program run by the YWCA, Juschka said she's seen firsthand the benefit affordable child-care offers working parents.
She hopes the pandemic has similarly taught governments the value the "care economy" — which includes nurses, workers in child care and seniors' care — "to our social fabric [and] a functioning economy."