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Female workers make gains: report

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OTTAWA -- The last three decades have been generally good for younger Canadian women in the workforce -- or at least much better than their male counterparts -- an analysis suggests.

A Statistics Canada comparison of employment trends from 1981 to 2012 shows working women in the 25 to 34 age group have seen an across-the-board improvement in employment prospects during the three decades.

Young Canadian women have lower unemployment rates today than they did, more of them are employed full time, and they are paid better in real inflation-adjusted dollars.

For men in the same age group, however, the results were at best mixed, depending on where they were living.

Those in the oil-producing provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland saw their wages rise, but they still had lower full-time employment rates in 2012 than they had in 1981.

And for those in the other provinces, there was nothing mixed about their outcomes. They saw their situation deteriorate in all three key categories -- higher unemployment, lower incidence of full-time jobs, and lower wages.

Labour economist Stephen Weir of the United Steelworkers union said the steady decline of Canada's manufacturing sector likely accounts for at least part of the poor performance among young male workers.

"Manufacturing is a male-dominated industry that traditionally paid good wages," he said. "(And) manufacturing has been cut in half as a share of Canadian employment, from 19 per cent to just under 10 per cent" during that time.

Weir also cautioned the data look better than it is among young female workers, noting their improved outcomes was largely "catching up."

Despite the closing of the gap, 61.7 per cent of women aged 25 to 34 held a full-time job last year, a big improvement from 1981's tally of 47.7 per cent.

But although the participation rate for men in the age group dropped almost nine percentage points over the past three decades, at 78.5 per cent it is still significantly higher than for female workers of a similar age.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2013 B7

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