Canada’s health-care crisis is gendered: How the burden of care falls to women

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Like health care, the care economy is primarily staffed by women. For example, in Canada, over 96 per cent of early childhood educators (ECEs) are women. Photo: Pexels


(Julia Smith/ The Conversation) — As we enter cold, flu and COVID season, Canada is continuing to experience a health-care crisis. One in six Canadians don’t have a family doctor and less than 50 per cent are able to see a primary care provider on the same or next day. Both the B.C. Nurses Union and Hospital Employees Union report over one-third of their members are considering quitting, largely due to burnout.

Because women make up 75 per cent of the health-care workforce — and are responsible for the majority of care work in the community and at home — women bear the brunt of this crisis, much as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020 and 2021, as co-lead of the Gender and COVID-19 Project based at Simon Fraser University, I spoke with nearly 200 women working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Their stories, compiled in my book Conscripted to Care, range from well-paid physicians to those making minimum wage cleaning rooms in long-term care (LTC) facilities, with participants identifying along a range of social positions related to factors including race, ethnicity and sexuality. Their combined experiences illustrate the cracks within our health system created by gender inequality. (…)

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