“When, because of traditions, social taboos or simple prejudice, half of the world’s population is prevented from making its contribution to the life of a nation, the economy will suffer.”
Ottawa (08 March 2012) – On March 8, International Women’s Day, people around the world will once again take time to celebrate the incredible achievements of women and their continued contributions to a better society and a better world.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a hundred years. It has been a day of celebration as well as a day to raise awareness of oppression and inequality towards women. As early as 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights, women have gathered to raise their voices for change.
Unfortunately, while there have been numerous gains, a recent World Bank study, "Women, Business and the Law", highlights the fact that in the past hundred years women are still being left behind. The study reports that women perform 66 per cent of the world’s work, produce 50 per cent of the world’s food but earn only 10 per cent of the income and own a mere one per cent of property.
The report was based on data collected between July 2010 and July 2011 and looked at six areas that are barriers to women’s advancement: equal access to public institutions, ability to own property, restrictions on the ability to get a job, incentives to work, ability to build credit and access to courts.
Noting that 49.6 per cent of the world’s population is female but comprise only 40.8 per cent of the world’s workforce, the report states, “When, because of traditions, social taboos or simple prejudice, half of the world’s population is prevented from making its contribution to the life of a nation, the economy will suffer.”
One of the major factors restricting women’s ability to move forward economically is the unfair distribution of labour. Women continue to carry the major responsibility for unpaid work which includes child care, elder care and household duties.
In Canada, governments are now introducing austerity measures to reduce deficits which include public spending cuts in health care, education, child care and social services. These cuts will have a far greater impact on women as they are services dominated by female workers. As these services are cut, women will have to take on more responsibilities for caring for family members who cannot access these public services.
The National Union on Public and General Employees' (NUPGE) Advisory Committee on Women’s Issues has been working on the issue of the quality of women’s lives and the struggle to balance home responsibilities with work responsibilities for several years. As well, they have been highlighting how the economic crisis has a greater impact on women.
In order to continue to highlight these critical issues, the National Union has formed Women for Change as part of its All Together Now! campaign for public services and tax fairness. The National Union wants to empower women to stand up and talk about these issues. Over the next several months, Women for Change will be working to move the message forward that public policies must change and issues such as health care, child care, education and social services must become a priority for all levels of government.
“As we take time to celebrate the many and vast accomplishments of women, I am also encouraging women to stand with us to make changes that will improve the lives of all Canadian women,” states James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
World Bank report "Women, Business and the Law" 
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good.
- CHPS