There are many ways we are pitted against each other every day. We allow issues to divide us. But the more we listen and share, the more we find that we are connected
Ottawa (10 Oct. 2018) — Every year, Women's History Month is held in October. It's a time to celebrate the many accomplishments that women have made over decades, while reflecting on the struggles that remain. When we take this time, it is much easier to see how history is rewriting itself for women. Challenges that, on the face of it, appear generation-specific —such as precarious work, access to affordable child care, and retirement security — are not new to women.
It is important to acknowledge that certain struggles may be more pronounced in certain segments of the population such as recent attacks on pensions for older women or the lack of affordable child care for younger women. But it is equally important to see how these issues are connected and how they connect generations of women.
Younger generations of women workers are facing challenges similar to those of the workers who came before them. Violence against women, pay equity, precarious work, and child care are all issues that affect, or have affected, younger and older women.
Common ground: pay equity, precarious work, retirement security
Regardless of the calculations used, it remains clear that a gendered pay gap in earnings still exists in Canada. This is a concern for all women, especially marginalized women. And while different groups and generations of women workers may experience pay inequity differently, it remains a challenge for all women.
Precarious work is not a new hurdle for women workers. Women have long been over-represented in less stable part-time work with low wages. Women tend to work in precarious types of employment — hospitality and accommodations, food services and also in the "caring" professions.
Precarious work is often discussed in relation to the challenges it presents to younger workers struggling to enter the workforce and establish a career. This type of employment situation does have an incredible impact on younger women workers. People are living longer, and therefore retiring later, making it harder for young workers to get established. But, at the same time, recent research reveals that there is a higher incidence of precarity among skilled professionals aged 55 and up.
Women workers already face challenges when it comes to retirement security. Women find it much more difficult to save for retirement due to their caregiving responsibilities. When women are not in the workforce, they cannot pay into their workplace or Canada Pension Plan and therefore are left with smaller savings. Of course, this is exacerbated by women earning less and working fewer hours. This is an issue that also spans generations.
Common ground: we're all workers
There are many ways we are pitted against each other every day. We allow issues to divide us. But the more we listen and share, the more we find that we are connected. We need to embrace this opportunity to unite and advance women's rights, thereby allowing young women to make their own history.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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. — NUPGE