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Unemployment, Women and Domestic Violence

Category : Blog

US presidential candidate Joe Biden recently remarked that “a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about your place in the community.”

Biden’s remarks ring especially true for survivors of violence against women. As many of these women know, a good paying job is essential to their ability to flee abuse.

Today we are discussing unemployment from a feminist perspective. We’ll be looking at and the ways in which jobs are an important safeguard for protecting women from violence.

No Job, No Power

According to recent research, a 3% increase in female unemployment is correlated with a 10% increase in domestic violence. The logic behind this conclusion is that when women aren’t meaningfully employed, leaving an abuser can be financially daunting.

An abuser may also use a woman’s lack of employment as a tool of coercion and control. He may only offer to pay for necessities she cannot afford if she behaves as he wants her to. This can make her completely financially reliant on him.

We live in capitalist system. This means what you do to generate income is often equated with your role in society, or worth as a person.

Unemployment, therefore, can be a devastating blow to the self-esteem of survivors of VAW. Without a job, survivors may begin to question what role they play in society. Similarly, they may underestimate their importance as a human-being.

COVID-19 and Unemployment

Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, women’s participation in the labor force is the lowest it’s been in over three decades. In the first two months of the pandemic, over 1.5 million Canadian women lost their jobs.

One reason for this disparity is that industries where women are highly represented like hospitality, retail, education, and care-work are being hit hardest by the economic downturn.

These industries are also less likely to be suited to remote-work. This means that many women in these roles have simply been laid off indefinitely.

Previous recessions, like the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, hit men harder—resulting in a male unemployment rate 2.5% higher than that of women. But this crisis is different.

The service market has collapsed, uncertainty is the norm, and the closure of schools means more women are having to sacrifice their career to mind their children.

Finding Employment as a Working Mother

In addition to the women that have been laid off, countless others have voluntarily resigned or cut their hours because of household responsibilities.

Finding a traditionally “flexible” employer is almost impossible. The precariousness of school openings also means it has nearly never been a worse time to look for employment as a working mother.

A recent analysis conducted by RBC also found that employment among single mothers to a toddler or school-aged child dipped by over 12%, compared to only 7% for single fathers. This suggests that even among single parent households, the economic effects of COVID-19 are systemically impacting women to a greater extent.

Economic Recovery and Moving Forward

It’s clear that increased participation of women in the labor force is important to building a world free of violence against women. We also observe the gendered ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has disintegrated our economy.

It may seem like everything is uncertain and scary at the moment. However, Canada’s economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to reimagine a better, more feminist, economic future. We may never have the economy we had in 2019, but maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.

Dixon applauds the federal government for investing $625 million in provincial childcare sectors. We understand the importance of childcare to building a socially sustainable economy that is inclusive of women.

We’re excited to see pledges that commit at least 1% of Canada’s GDP specifically to childcare. We hope policymakers will continue to do more to ensure economic recovery is sensitive to the specific needs of women.

Dixon and Employment

Particularly in our Second Stage Housing Program, staff help our clients access educational programs and connect with our career mentorship volunteer. Staff also work to help women understand how employment insurance works and acquire the skills they need to have a successful career.

At Dixon, we understand the importance of economic independence for women—both on a federal scale, and an individual scale.

We are constantly fighting for a world free of violence against women. And we firmly believe increased female participation in the labor force is essential to this vision.


COVID-19: We continue to provide vital services for women and children fleeing violence during the pandemic. More Info

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