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More women in the work force

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Employment has grown rapidly among women over the last three decades. In 2005, women made up nearly half the labour force, compared with just over one-third in 1976. During that period, societal changes—such as improved parental leave programs and higher percentages of women in university—contributed to the growing number of women in the work force.

There has also been a substantial increase in the employment rate for women with children. The employment rate for women who have children under the age of 16 climbed from 39% in 1976 to 73% in 2004. It is still true, however, that proportionally fewer women with children have jobs than women without children. In 2004, 79% of women under 55 with no children had a job.

Women have made inroads into what used to be exclusively male occupations. For example, by 2004 the proportion of women among physicians, dentists and other health-care professionals had reached 55%. The proportion of women managers has continued to grow as well. Notwithstanding these gains, the majority of women workers are still in traditionally female-dominated occupations such as teaching, nursing, clerical work, sales and services.

Chart: Mothers, under age 55 in the work forceAlthough the wage gap between men and women is narrowing, wage parity has not yet been achieved. In 2003, average annual earnings were $24,800 for women and $39,100 for men. That meant women earned an average of 82 cents for every dollar earned by men—$16.27 versus $19.78 per hour.

More women than men have part-time jobs, temporary jobs or more than one job. Women are also more likely to be away from work to attend to personal or family obligations or to do unpaid work.