Back in the day, it was a success when women changed the workforce such that working part-time was more acceptable. We also used to look down upon, for example, the legal profession where becoming partner involves a cot in the office with a pillow of legal documents to ensure that even sleeping is billable.
Not anymore! Now #YourBudget2018 says something very different: Women, mothers—get off your lazy fannies and start truly contributing to the paid economy full-time because Canada needs more tax dollars. With an aging population, the country needs more workers. The budget seems set on trying to solve this problem by ensuring women have fewer, not more, choices.
Here’s the thing: growing the GDP is a legitimate goal in government policy, and even in family policy. The problem is that growing the GDP got dressed up in gender equity clothing. Only the costume isn’t very good, and the true purpose is quite clear. Many otherwise decent commentators have been saying this is just fine; it’s good that we are maximizing women’s “contributions.” But this insults the very people—women—they purport to help by insinuating that while women gave it the good old college try before, the efforts were lacklustre.
This policy track also denies women’s choices by denying families choices. It couches a desperate need for GDP growth as women’s empowerment. It pretends women today, especially mothers, are doing nothing, where in reality the caregiving demands upon the sandwich generation (those caring for children and parents) are very great. It demands state-funded, centre-based daycare, where polls show 76 percent of Canadians believe the best place for a child under six is at home. Finally, it is specifically coercive toward lower income women, who will be forced to make choices they wouldn’t otherwise make. Women with lower education aren’t all going to join the skilled trades. Some are going to need to sacrifice precious time with young children for a McJob, while their kids are in daycare. It’s not the trade off many would prefer. We know that 75 percent of Canadian women prefer that a child under six be at home with a parent.
Imagine with me for a second that the budget focussed so much on men. Imagine that Budget 2018 referenced men 708 times instead of women. Men—we need to coax you into nursing! Men—not enough of you are kindergarten teachers! Men—don’t take time off with your children when they are young! Men—you can’t choose more paternity benefits—these are “use it or lose it” for women, only!
If that sounds pushy it’s because it is.
The government would have you believe that women are beleaguered. That so many of us are denied entry into our fields of choice by discrimination. That women are “underrepresented” in various areas. And that women are not paid as much as men.
The reality is much different.
Women outnumber men on university campuses. Women also have lower high-school dropout rates, commit suicide at lower rates, and have experienced less job loss in recent economic downturns than men have. When economists account for all the factors that go into the purported pay gap, it disappears, the result of women’s legitimate choices about work.
Yet we may end up with a budget that focusses exclusively on men in the coming decades, for the simple reason that it is widely accepted and acknowledged that we already have a “man problem.” Take this CBC article from 2017, where the author reports that life is getting tougher for many men, who are having trouble adjusting to a changing labour market and economy as many jobs in traditionally male-dominated sectors are lost.
In reality, things will get tougher for all of us. Is any business owner, woman or man, pleased to read that “austerity should not turn into a rigid ideology about deficits that sees any investment as bad spending”? That’s #YourBudget2018 code for a higher tax burden in the future.
The morning after the budget, as I came into work, a fight had broken out on the main street near my house between some youths. They were boys, and the fight happened to break out near one of the three pot shops that has cropped up on this strip. These angry young men, waiting for access to pot, are coincidental to this budget that says in no uncertain terms that men are invisible and irrelevant. That said, let no one be confused that Budget 2018 favoured women, either.
Andrea Mrozek is Program Director of Cardus Family. Prior to joining Cardus, she was the Executive Director at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada where she wrote and spoke about marriage, child care, women's issues and how family life affects the economy, and vice versa. Her article, an earlier version of which was published by the National Post, is republished from Cardus with permission.
Andrea is interviewed on radio here.