Study finds gender imbalance in children born to Indo-Canadian women

Important and disturbing study.

It would be interesting to know if second-generation Indo-Canadians continue this practice or not and I understand the researchers are planning to do just that:

Fewer girls than boys are born to Indian women who immigrate to Canada, a skewed pattern driven by families whose mother tongue is Punjabi, according to a new study.

One of the most surprising findings of the study, to be published Monday in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, is that the preference for boys does not diminish, regardless of how long women from India have lived in Canada.

“It’s counterintuitive,” said Marcelo Urquia, a research scientist at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Health Policy and lead author of the study. “We know that the longer immigrants are in Canada, the more likely they are to align to the host country.”

But for many Indian immigrants who express a strong desire for sons, the study found, the practice of sex selection remains entrenched. Women who already have two female children are most at risk for abortions in the second trimester, when parents can learn the sex of the fetus. The study builds on previous research led by Dr. Urquia that found a deficit in Canada of more than 4,400 girls over two decades.

The latest study shows that women born in India who already have two daughters gave birth to 192 baby boys in Ontario for every 100 girls. The sex ratios are so distorted, they cannot be explained by natural causes, Dr. Urquia said. Across the globe, by comparison, the odds of having a boy over a girl are slightly higher: 107 boys for every 100 girls.

The preference for boys among many Indian immigrants reveals underlying gender inequities and will not change without intervention, Dr. Urquia said.

Amanpreet Brar, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto who worked on the study, said gender-selection abortion was talked about openly in India’s Punjab province, where she grew up, but she was surprised to learn that it also happens in Canada.

Ms. Brar, who immigrated to Canada with her family when she was 14, remembers the traditional celebration called a Lohri in India for celebrating the birth of a boy.

“It was rare to hear about a girl’s birth being celebrated,” she said.

But some steps have been taken in Canada to end gender-based customs and celebrate the birth of girls. In Brampton, Ont., where 40 per cent of the population is South Asian, one hospital has started handing out Ladoos, a sugary Indian sweet, when a baby girl is born, Ms. Brar said. Traditionally in India, Ladoos were just for moms who delivered boys.

The study analyzed 46,834 birth records for Indian-born mothers who delivered up to three live births in Ontario hospitals between April, 1993, and March, 2014, and who immigrated to Canada between 1985 and 2012. Mothers who gave birth to twins or triplets were excluded. The study also looked at the mother’s birth place, her mother tongue and how long she had been in Canada.

Among all the mothers having their third child, nearly twice as many males were born compared with females if the previous two children were girls. The ratio was even higher among women whose mother tongue was Punjabi: 240 boys to 100 girls. The ratio of males to females did not differ according to when women arrived in Canada.

Source: Study finds gender imbalance in children born to Indo-Canadian women – The Globe and Mail

A black woman in tech makes $79,000 for every $100,000 a white man makes – Recode

Impressive large-scale data analysis that show the extent of bias in the hiring process:

It’s no secret that the technology field can be brutal to anyone who isn’t a white male. New data shows just how those inequalities play out in today’s tech workers’ paychecks.

Nearly two in three women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company, according to Hired, a job website that focuses on placing people in tech jobs such as software engineer, product manager or data scientist. That’s slightly better than last year, when 69 percent of women received lower offers.

Women, on average, were paid 4 percent less than men for the same kind of job, the study found.

For the study, Hired mined data from 120,000 salary offers to 27,000 candidates at 4,000 companies. In general, applicants to these tech fields skew male (75 percent), but that doesn’t account for the disparity in who gets interviewed.

Companies interviewed only men for a position 53 percent of the time; 6 percent of the time, they interviewed only women.

“Not only are women getting lower offers when they actually get offers, but a large amount of time, companies have openings and they’re not interviewing women at all,” said Jessica Kirkpatrick, Hired’s data scientist.

Hired’s data also breaks down offer salaries by race, compared with a white man in the same job. The effects of race are even more dramatic:

  • Black women are offered 79 cents to every dollar offered to a white man.
  • Black men make 88 cents.
  • Latina women make 83 cents.
  • White women make 90 cents.

Additionally, LGBTQ women and men are offered less money than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.

There are numerous reasons for this pay inequity. Part of the problem is that women, minorities and LGBTQ people ask for less than white males for the same position.

According to Kirkpatrick, these groups ask for less because people base their salary expectations on what they’re already making. For these groups, their lower pay often reflects a lot of historical inequities accrued over their careers, like being denied raises or promotions.

By not offering people comparable wages, Kirkpatrick said that companies are jeopardizing their job retention. “When people figure out what their teammates are making, it’s ultimately not good for maintaining talent and creating a collegial environment,” she said.

It also makes Silicon Valley’s already tight talent pool even smaller.

Source: A black woman in tech makes $79,000 for every $100,000 a white man makes – Recode

Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada

I have some sympathy for the arguments of Fraser and MacDonald. Yet another example of the Senate exercising more independence:

Some members of the Senate are determined to stop Parliament from changing the words of the national anthem, with one senator deriding the late Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger‘s proposed amendments to O Canada as “clunky, leaden and pedestrian.”

Liberal Senator Joan Fraser, a self-described “ardent feminist,” said the new phrasing is both grammatically incorrect and a misguided attempt to make the song reflect “today’s values.”

“It’s a fine example of what happens when you let politicians meddle,” she said of Bill C-210 to amend the National Anthem Act. “Politicians are not usually poets.”

Bélanger, who passed away last summer after a battle with ALS, sought to make the anthem gender-neutral by removing the phrase “all thy sons command” and replacing it with “all of us command.”

The bill passed in the House of Commons largely along party lines, with all Liberal and NDP MPs voting in favour of the changes, while most Conservatives opposed. Some notable female Tory MPs, including Michelle Rempel and Lisa Raitt, backed Bélanger’s bill.

Nearly a year later, the bill is now in its last legislative phase — third reading in the Senate — awaiting a final vote.  As per the Senate’s procedural policy, debate on the bill can be continually adjourned by critics, punting a vote on the matter to a later date.

‘Sloppy’ legislation

The bill’s backers, including Liberal MP Greg Fergus, hope to see the bill passed into law in time for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations on July 1.

While others, including Conservative Nova Scotia Senator Michael MacDonald, have said the “sloppy” legislation should be defeated in its present form because it’s simply an attempt to sanitize a national symbol.

“If we are constantly revising everything because it was written in another generation, our national symbols will have no value. Our history means nothing in this country anymore, and it’s a shame that we’re doing this,” he said in an interview with CBC News. “The Senate should not be reticent in defending and preserving the heritage of Canada.”

Fraser, a journalist and editor appointed by former prime minister Jean Chrétien in 1998, said it is a dangerous precedent to start fiddling with lyrics written by a man long dead.

“If we are to become engrossed in the idea that we must at all times be correctly modern, we lose a part of our heritage,” Fraser said in a recent speech to the Red Chamber. “It may not be a perfect heritage — I’m not suggesting it is — but it is ours. I suggest that it deserves respect and acceptance for what it is: imperfect but our own.”

Fraser said if inclusion is the primary goal, it makes little sense to leave overtly Christian references untouched. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s government added the words “God keep our land glorious and free” in 1980, she noted, the same year the song officially became the country’s national anthem.

“Make no mistake about it, colleagues: we’re talking about the Christian god here, not just anyone’s god,” she said.

Since 1980, 12 private member’s bills have been introduced in the House to strip the gendered reference to “sons,” which some have argued is discriminatory. All attempts have failed.

“It is something that will make our national anthem more inclusive,” Independent Ontario Senator Frances Lankin said in defence of the bill last month. “This change might be small, but it may very well have a major impact on how the next generation views our evolving history.”

The song itself has been changed many times since the English version was first penned in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, a judge and poet. Indeed, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Weir changed the line in question from “thou dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command.”

‘Social justice warrior seal of approval’

MacDonald is vehemently opposed to Bélanger’s wording because he believes the “politically correct” changes were rammed through the House despite little or no public demand for such a modification.

He said the Liberal government used Bélanger, a man who was near death, as a “vehicle” for the changes.

“That’s not the way to use Parliament. Everybody knows the tragedy of his circumstances, a very tragic thing — but, with respect, it’s the government that treated it like the Children’s Wish Foundation,” MacDonald said.

“This is just change for the sake of change, and just catering to a very narrow group of people who want to impose their agenda on everything,” he said. “Leave the anthem alone.”

The Cape Breton senator also takes issue with the bill because it only changes the English-language version of the national anthem, even though the French words would have a hard time getting the “social justice warrior seal of approval.”

“Why should one official version of the anthem be exempt from re-examination?” MacDonald said. “It is, without question, an ethnic French-Canadian, Catholic, nationalist battle hymn, certainly non-inclusive, yet I am not offended. It is just part of Canada’s history in song.”

MacDonald said he has consulted with English and linguistic professors about the wording change, and they agree that the bill’s authors “botched” the language.

“The proper and only acceptable pronoun substitution for the phrase ‘All thy sons command’ is ‘All of our command,'” MacDonald said. “This is not opinion. This is fact.”  (The full text of his speech can be read here.)

Source: Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada – Politics – CBC News

Byelection results: Tories hold Calgary seats, Liberals keep Ottawa, Montreal, Markham: Increase in diversity

These results further increase diversity: four women elected, all replacing men, one visible minority elected, replacing a non-visible minority man.

Overall totals: 92 (up from 88) women or 27 percent, 48 visible minorities (up from 47) or 14 percent.

Source: Byelection results: Tories hold Calgary seats, Liberals keep Ottawa, Montreal, Markham – Politics – CBC News

Ontario Sunshine List sharpens call for equal pay for women

It is always easy (and valid) to focus on the people at the top as there are relatively few positions given their prominence and the relatively small numbers that one can easily analyse.

What is harder and takes more time, is to go through the entire list of some 65,000 names and do diversity analysis (based on names) to see the overall pattern.

To the Ontario government’s credit, the information is provided directly in spreadsheet form. If I get bored …

Naureen Rizvi says she was disappointed when only four women cracked the top 20 spots on Ontario’s annual Sunshine List, even as the province says it’s “on track” to close the wage gap.

“I always feel it’s not fast enough,” Rizvi told CBC Toronto at a Ryerson University event focused on women’s economic empowerment.

“I don’t accept that it takes 90 years to get to parity.”

At her job as the Ontario regional director with Unifor, Rizvi represents hundreds of thousands of unionized employees across a huge range of sectors, and she says there are wage gaps everywhere she looks.

‘We know that transparency is really important for achieving gender equity.’– Sarah Kaplan, Director at Rotman’s Institute for Gender and the Economy

A quick scan of the top of the Sunshine List merely confirms it. At universities, not one woman making a six-figure salary made as much as the top 20 men. At municipalities, only three women were among the best-paid.

Indira Naidoo-Harris, the province’s minister for the status of women, says the province is well aware there’s more work to do. Within the public service, she said, women make up some 55 per cent of the workforce, but take home about 12 per cent less money than their male counterparts.

The province has a strategy to deal with this, which includes setting targets for the number of women it wants at top levels.

“I think these are important targets because they really show that we are committed to really making sure that we’re putting those women in those positions of leadership where they belong,” Naidoo-Harris said.

“And that will absolutely open doors.”

Province setting targets to get women in top jobs

While the province is hoping to lead by example, it’s also asking companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange to alter their boards so they’re made up of at least 30 per cent women by 2020 (internally, the government’s target for women on boards is 40 per cent).

Naidoo-Harris also touted the government’s recently announced investments in child care, and called on women in this province to demand equality.

Sarah Kaplan, the director of Rotman’s Institute for Gender and the Economy, says the Sunshine List is a “small window” into the equity issue. But, she said, women should take advantage of any transparency when it comes to information about pay.

And Kaplan, who is on the list along with many of her colleagues, has done exactly that in the past.

“I said. ‘Here are the people that were promoted at the same time I was promoted — why are they getting paid more than me?'”.

It may not always work, Kaplan says, but it does lead to pointed questions.

“We know that transparency is really important for achieving gender equity,” she said.

Income inequality tougher for women who make less money

Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says it’s an “excellent idea” to use the list’s information to bargain, and that people from racialized groups, or those with different levels of ability, could do the same.

Block said the information can also be revealing about the biases that exist at certain institutions — something either employees or the employers themselves can question.

While it’s far from perfect, both Block and Kaplan note the public sector tends to be a fairer place for women.

“One of the things we’re most concerned about is the income inequality at the bottom end of the income spectrum,” Block said.

The Sunshine List itself doesn’t track gender, and crunching those numbers can be difficult due to androgynous names like Erin or Kim.

Source: Ontario Sunshine List sharpens call for equal pay for women – Toronto – CBC News

Why budget ‘gender statements’ are a bad idea

One thing to argue that gender and diversity analysis should include men (hard not to agree given some of the disturbing trends regarding education and outcomes), quite another to dismiss GBA entirely like Peter Shawn Taylor appears to do.

In my various analyses of diversity in government appointments, it is generally simpler to present one gender than both, as the numbers are simply the flip side of one another (and yes, traditionally women and other minorities have been under-represented). But narratives can and should be more inclusive.

And while Lilla’s thesis that identity politics led to the alienation of white males, it is more likely that the fundamental changes in the economy and the impact on white working class males played a larger part:

The Gender Statement’s ultimate consequence is to promote a winner-take-all gender competition—a battle between the sexes to see who can muster the best (that is, worst) numbers in making their case for systemic discrimination. The mere fact I’m writing this now—the heresy of men’s rights notwithstanding—proves the point. Ottawa’s plan to expand its Gender Statement in future years to include new identities such as ethnicity, age and sexual orientation can only raise this contrived grievance-search to new, intersectional heights.

At this point, I’m reminded of Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla’s much-shared essay in the New York Times, The End of Identity Liberalism, in which he unpacked the destructive impact of the political fixation on gender, racial and sexual identities on the U.S. election.

“A generation of liberals and progressives [have become] narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups,” he writes. Such obsessive attention to self-identity eventually caused white, predominantly-male Americans to similarly think of themselves as a disadvantaged group, thereby putting Donald Trump in the White House. “Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it,” Lilla concludes, calling on liberals to spend more time promoting shared experiences and values, rather than curating differences.

Surely this is the fire we’re playing at in Canada as well with the budget’s Gender Statement. It encourages Canadians to consider the country’s fiscal plan not in its broad sweep and affect on the country, but rather through the lens of narrowly-defined identity categories. And to succeed in this context, it becomes necessary to elevate whatever disadvantages your group might experience while ignoring those of competing groups.

This might work for a while. But eventually everyone will start to demand their special moment. Men might even wonder why they’re asked to pay 66 per cent of all taxes, while their problems get zero per cent of Ottawa’s sympathy and attention. And then what?

Source: Why budget ‘gender statements’ are a bad idea – Macleans.ca

Trudeau government’s vacant appointments backlog up 80%

Good follow-up story and valid concern regarding the large number of vacancies.

But nice to see that PCO is now tracking more systematically the diversity of appointments and improving representation (of the more than 100 appointments to date, 62 per cent women, 15 per cent visible minorities, 10 per cent Indigenous Canadians):

Five months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government assured Canadians that its new system would soon fix the backlog of appointments that need to be filled, the problem has gotten much worse.

An analysis by CBC News reveals that one in three governor in council positions — ranging from directors of government agencies to members of tribunals that hear appeals of employment insurance or pension disputes — is currently vacant or occupied by an appointee whose term is past its expiry date.

When CBC first looked at the question in October 2016, 19.6 per cent of the governor in council positions were vacant or past their expiry date.

That number is currently at 35 per cent, although it will drop slightly next week when several appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board made by cabinet earlier this month take effect.

The backlog in October of more than 300 appointments has now swelled to 572. Of the 515 positions, 354 are vacant. Another 161 are occupied by an appointee, often one named by the previous Conservative government, whose appointment is past its expiry date. However, they are allowed to remain until they are replaced or renewed.

The positions range from lucrative full-time jobs with six-figure salaries to part-time positions that pay per diems and expenses.

There are also 57 vacancies for federally appointed judges, down slightly from the 61 vacancies in October 2016 that prompted concerns about growing backlogs in criminal trials.

In several cases, positions are being filled on a temporary basis because the government was not able to fill them before the incumbent’s term was set to expire. Among them are half of the officers of Parliament — the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, the commissioner of lobbying and the official languages commissioner, while the chief electoral officer’s position is listed as vacant.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government went on an appointment spree in the weeks leading up to the 2015 election, filling not only most of the positions that were vacant but also making 49 “future appointments” of individuals whose terms weren’t due to be renewed until well after the election.

In October, the government said that the initial backlog was caused in part by the decision to overhaul the appointments process and bring in a more open and balanced merit-based system.

It said that system was up and running, Canadians were applying for the positions and vacancies were being filled.

Five months later, the government said it has received more than 11,000 applications for vacant appointments and more than 100 selection processes are currently underway.

“The more rigorous approach to conducting selection processes represents a significant volume of work,” said Raymond Rivet, spokesman for the Privy Council Office.

Rivet said that since the government launched its new appointments process it has made more than 100 appointments.

“Of this number, 62 per cent have been women, 15 per cent visible minorities, 10 per cent Indigenous Canadians and 50 per cent identify as fully or functionally bilingual.”

However, Conservative MP Tony Clement, former president of the Treasury Board, said the growing backlog of vacant appointments is affecting service to Canadians.

“This clearly a case where these appointments, which are necessary for the proper functioning of government — there could be issues involving people getting their appropriate EI, for instance, or their appropriate pension — are not being processed because of the lack of these appointments.”

Clement blamed the backlog on Trudeau’s director of appointments, Mary Ng, who announced Feb. 15 that she was taking a leave from her job to seek the Liberal nomination in the Toronto-area riding of Markham-Thornhill. The riding became vacant after Trudeau appointed former immigration minister John McCallum as Canada’s ambassador to China.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Clement. “The person in charge of this process is now the Liberal candidate in Markham, and obviously she was spending too much time campaigning for herself and not enough time making recommendations to the prime minister on appointments.”

The budget’s gender-based analysis forgot to look at one thing — men: Neil Macdonald

Valid question to ask, as no reason why GBA could not also look at areas where males are struggling or disadvantaged.

However, assertion that “women own government” and citing the figure that women form 71 percent of the public service ignores that women are overwhelmingly concentrated in support and admin positions (see my analysis Federal Employment Equity).

In terms of executive-level positions, the chart above shows that while considerable progress has been achieved, not yet at parity for the most senior positions (DMs and ADMs):

Every liberal, after all, is raised to believe that male privilege is the anchor determinant in our society, and that being born male — especially a white male — confers possession of the keys to society’s ignition.

And yet.

Here are a few things the budget’s gender-based analysis ignores, and might be worth addressing next time:

Women do much better than men in school.

That wasn’t the case even 20 years ago, but as Statistics Canada puts it: “Today, the situation is completely different. Education indicators show that women generally do better than men.”

The gap begins in kindergarten, where girls earn better marks than boys, and continues right through university.

“More girls than boys earn their high school diploma within the expected timeframe, and girls are less likely to drop out. More women than men enrol in college and university programs. A greater percentage of women leave these programs with a diploma or degree.”

If that trend continues, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, it isn’t hard to see what lies ahead: an increasingly uneducated and unemployable male population.

“It is quite troubling that increasing numbers of young men are dropping out,” says Philip Cross, former chief economic analyst for Statistics Canada. “They don’t tend to do well in public school, and they’re constantly told that if you don’t go to university, you might as well not be in our society, and they know they probably aren’t going to university, so they just drop out. An increasing number of men are not in the labour force and not going to school. This is not good.”

Women have not yet caught up to men in the private sector, but they own the public service, by far the single biggest employer in the country.

According to Statistics Canada, women not only comprise 71 per cent of Canada’s 4.1 million public sector jobs at all levels of government, but“gender parity now exists in the public sector with respect to women’s representation in leadership positions.”

Meaning that while women are still a designated group for the purposes of preferential hiring in the public service, they now have most of the jobs and at least half of the most senior jobs.

Cross puts it rather bluntly: “Women are overrepresented in government, and government jobs are the best jobs. Best job security, best pension benefits, best everything.”

Further, he says, women now dominate the feeder positions for all the most senior jobs in government.

The overwhelming majority of people who have lost their jobs in the resource sector out west and the manufacturing sector, mostly in Ontario, are men.

As Springsteen sang, these jobs are going, boys, and they ain’t coming back.

“There is a certain type of man who you wanted in the oil sands, out of town, blowing things up,” says Cross. “Those people still exist, and now they are jobless, and what do we do with them now?”

Exact figures are difficult to find, but Janice MacKinnon, a university professor and former NDP finance minister in Saskatchewan, says it’s a “staggering number.” And those jobs that do come back will demand higher skill levels.

She notes there is absolutely nothing in the budget’s gender-based analysis about those jobs, or what to do about their disappearance.

“Where’s the strategy on that?” she asks. “If you are going to look at gender, that’s fine, but there are areas where boys and men are struggling, and they need to be documented, too.”

MacKinnon even goes so far as to say that being a white male entering the current job market is a disadvantage.

Cross puts it another way: “Historically, our economic system has favoured men, but the trend is in the opposite direction.”

He would dearly like someone to ask the government why none of its gender-based analysis addressed any of the forgoing.

So I wrote one of the prime minister’s senior advisers to ask.

The reply: “It is a reasonable question to ask.”

But, um, no answer.

Source: The budget’s gender-based analysis forgot to look at one thing — men: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

Liberals fall short with first gender-based federal budget

Erin Anderssen’s analysis of the government’s first foray in including gender-based analysis in budget-making.

Like all early efforts, imperfect, but the template and accountability that goes with it is being set:

But it’s in their flagship programs – parental and caregiving leave, and child-care spending – that they flounder. The Liberals are keeping a campaign promise to allow more flexibility in maternity and parental leave; women will be able to take leave 12 weeks before giving birth, stretch one year of employment insurance benefits over 18 months, or work sporadically. The government is also adding a new caregiver leave, which allows people to take employment insurance for 15 weeks to care for a critically ill relative.

But that’s only for the lucky Canadians who can afford it. Those programs will charm upper-middle-class women who can get by on EI and are significantly more likely to have their wages topped up by an employer. But a study published last year by researchers at Brock University and the University of Montreal found that outside of Quebec, 38 per cent of mothers are excluded from parental leave as they don’t make enough or haven’t worked long enough to qualify for EI. (In Quebec, where the government tops up benefits and has expanded eligibility, it’s a different story: 85 per cent of mothers earning less than $30,000 a year take provincially funded leave.) Unlike under the federal proposal, new dads in Quebec also get their own use-it-or-lose-it time at home – a policy that research suggests helps to gender-balance both caregiving and workplace expectations on parents.

There’s an economic argument for gender-based budget analysis: Done properly, it should increase the labour-force participation of half the population. In Canada, women’s employment has stalled at about 81 per cent for a decade, and, as the budget itself notes, the country continues to have one of the highest gender wage gaps in the OECD. That’s where affordable, accessible, high-quality child care comes in, creating an environment that enables women to work while raising a family. (And however often the government tweaks these programs, low-income mothers can hardly take advantage of job training or university loans if they can’t find or afford child care.)

This Liberal budget isn’t going to make that happen in Canada anytime soon. Ottawa is promising $7-billion in child care but only spending about $500-million a year during the government’s current mandate. The budget suggests this funding “could” create 40,000 subsidized spaces over the next three years, depending on how the provinces spend it. For a frame of reference, consider that Quebec’s $20-a-day child-care plan costs more than $2.4-billion. There are currently about 500,000 regulated centre-based spots in the entire country – enough for only one in four children under the age of five. The country needs a lot more than 40,000 might-happen spaces.

Give the Liberals kudos for referring to women on nearly every page of the budget, for showing that the federal government knows its own statistics. But Canadian families – especially low-income mothers striving to join the middle class – already know where they’re crunched and what might help. They should expect Canada’s first feminist government to pick up a gender-balanced share of the check where it will help most and provide the analysis to back it up. There’s always next year.

Source: Liberals fall short with first gender-based federal budget – The Globe and Mail

Anne Kingston’s take in Macleans:

Gender-based analysis (GBA) isn’t new. Canada committed to implementing it in 1995, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. More than two decades later, we’re still not there; a 2016 government  audit found GBA employed spottily at the federal level, if at all. A Status of Women committee called for mandatory adoption of GBA across all government departments and agencies by June of this year. The tally of what that will cost has not been provided.

The usefulness of GBA was in fact highlighted even earlier: in the 2016 budget, the first tabled by a government lead by a self-declared feminist Canadian prime minister. Kate McInturff, a senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, conducted her own GBA in a withering appraisal: in one instance, she drilled into the $11.6 billion in job creation measures the government expected to add some 143,000 jobs, concluding that women comprised only 36 percent of beneficiaries.

Budget 2017 brings us a new twist: “GBA+,” with the “+”  referring to “the intersecting identity factors that must be considered in public policy along with, and in relation to, gender (e.g. ethnicity, age, income, sexual orientation).” The section on gender-based violence highlights the need. While Indigenous women, children and youth, and LGBTQ2 and gender non-conforming people are at higher risk of violence, it noted, women who live with physical and cognitive impairments are at even higher risk. Senior women, it adds, are the most frequent targets of “family violence”—at a rate 24 per cent higher than that of senior men. (Lest anyone think that GBA is intended only to assist women, the Gender Statement also notes inequities experienced by men, pointing to evidence that the suicide rate for men is three times higher than the rate for women, yet women attempt suicide three to four times more often than men).

Many of the statistics presented in the Gender Statement have been well-publicized. Women make up 47 percent of the paid workforce in Canada, and are more likely to have post-secondary training, yet earn, on average, some 30 percent less than men. That wage gap has been declining over the past decades, yet the country “continues to have one of the highest wage gaps among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries,” the report noted.  Women are disproportionately represented in lower-paying occupations across the retail, health and social-service sectors. They’re twice as likely as men to work part-time, more likely than men to cite caring for children as the reason they are in part-time work, and perform more hours of unpaid work in the home. The repercussions can be cascade-like, in keeping women from getting jobs, qualifying for Employment Insurance and falling below the poverty line.

Given the known pivotal role access to childcare has in enabling women’s access to the workforce, eyes were on the government’s  childcare initiatives. Morneau delievered a big number: $7 billion toward early learning and childcare to increase the number of “high-quality child care spaces available across the country” (the minister also spoke of creating up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces over the next three years working with the provinces and territories; it’s also a big number but it doesn’t being to fill the need). Here, there was no deviation from the government’s much-publicized Canada Child Benefit. More significantly, these monies are backloaded over the next decade—to 2028—thus designed as an incentive to vote Liberal at least twice.

Parental leave after a baby’s arrival has also been extended to 18 months, at a cost of $152 million over the first five years, $27.5  a year thereafter. This appears good news for women, who make up 92 percent of those taking leave. A closer look, however, shows it’s just extending the current 12-month leave for another six months with no additional funds given.

The budget’s big, headline-making news was a $101-million commitment over five years—just over $20 million a year—to support a “National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence”  like those seen in Australia and Ireland.  Yet given the economic cost of violence against women, the commitment seems miniscule.  Justice Canada estimates spousal abuse and violence against women costs the economy an estimated $12.2 billion per year.

The budget did, however, appear to honour “caring labour,” as economist Nancy Folbre terms it. There’s a proposal to consolidate the existing caregiver credit into into a new “Canada Caregiver Credit” that would allow caregivers to claim tax credits up to $6,883 on expenses arising from caring for a relative with “infirmities” including those with disabilities. There’s also a new “caregiver leave,” which permits people caring for a critically ill relative to  take employment insurance for 15 weeks. More women than men are caregivers, according to Statistics Canada (some 54 per cent in 2012). Yet a higher proportion of men claim caregiver tax credits (55 per cent of all individuals claiming the Caregiver Credit and 59 per cent of those claiming the Infirm Dependant Credit).

Inequities at the upper employment echelons were also noted by Morneau, a former Bay Street executive. In 2016, women comprised only 26 percent of senior management jobs in the private sector and occupied only 19.5 percent of seats on boards of Financial Post 500 companies. Morneau’s stated solution was to rely on advice from the high-profile squad of businesswomen who accompanied Prime Minister Trudeau on his first meeting and photo-op with Donald Trump at the White House: “We’ve asked the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders to quickly advise us on how we can better empower women entrepreneurs, and remove barriers for women in business,” Morneau said.  Given that the group’s second meeting has yet to be announced, just how quickly, or even if, that advice will be delivered remains a major question mark.

On a day of “gender-based analysis” one would be remiss not to notice that the new approach was delivered by a constant in Canadian political life: a male finance minister. The much-celebrated new shoes purchased for the occasion, (this year’s are symbolically “NAFTA-correct”) have always been brogues or oxfords. Even in Trudeau’s much-vaunted gender equal cabinet, the money man remains a man.

Today, however, Canada’s male finance minister appeared willing to break one gender stereotype, with his government, in asking for new  directions, even if he didn’t always follow them. The Gender Statement ended with the admission that there’s more to learn. There are “current gaps in data and understanding” it conceded, adding there’s “still much work to be done.” On that point, it’s impossible to disagree.

Source: The hope and hype of a ‘gender-based’ budget

Bureaucrats assess impacts of policies on women — but results kept secret

Indeed. There should be a way to shed some light on the gender-based analysis involved without violating Cabinet confidentiality:

Canada committed to using gender-based analysis in 1995, as part of ratifying the UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, but the auditor general concluded last year that relatively few departments and agencies were using it, or that they were doing so in an incomplete and inconsistent way.

That is changing. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is said to have pushed for more rigorous gender-based analysis around the cabinet table. Finance Minister Bill Morneau pledged to put the 2017 federal budget through the same process and publish the results.

The finance department plays a special role in gender-based analysis.

It puts many of its own policies through the process, but it also reviews the gender-based analysis done by other departments on any budget proposals before they can go to Morneau.

Treasury Board and the Privy Council Office, the other two central agencies, perform a similar “challenge function.” A template for the new due diligence document that must now be submitted with every memorandum to cabinet shows proposals must include a summary of findings from a gender-based analysis.

This is where the newly declassified memo comes in.

The report from the status of women committee had recommended all three central agencies “produce annual reports on the challenge function they play in promoting the application of (gender-based analysis).” It also recommended they share these reports with a commissioner for gender equality — another recommendation from the report.

This is what the part of the memo regarding the limits of transparency — contained in a heavily redacted section titled “considerations” — was responding to.

New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, vice-chair of the status of women committee, said people need to know what questions the government is asking itself.

“We heard a lot of evidence that there is no transparency on the challenge function and nobody was able to really point to any examples of where legislation or a funding decision had been turned back at the cabinet level because they hadn’t done the (gender-based analysis) test,” Malcolmson said.

It is especially important for the finance department to find a way to shed more light on their decisions, said Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, who chairs the committee.

“They are the ones putting money to programs that may adversely affect women if not done well,” she said.

There is a sign the finance department is looking for a better way.

The government’s official response to the committee report, tabled in the House last October, included this line: “All central agencies will explore ways to better communicate publicly the role and value-added of their challenge function with respect to (gender-based analysis.)”

Jack Aubry, a spokesman for the finance department, referred to this line when asked about the memo, but said he could not give any more details.

Isabella Bakker, a political scientist at York University who has done research on gender budgeting, said the finance department should be able to find some balance. “They could develop some kind of internal measure that would get around the issue of secrecy, but would at least give a broad indication of what they were doing.”