Many Canadian workers putting family on hold due to lack of work-life balance: survey

'Women change their life patterns much more than men to accommodate work and family strains'

Many Canadian workers putting family on hold due to lack of work-life balance: survey

Many Canadian workers are looking for greater work-life balance — and that could have an impact on fertility rates.

Two-thirds (66%) of employed job seekers said that work-life balance is “essential” for a company they are considering working for, found the poll released by Express Professionals.

In addition, one-third of employed jobseekers (33%) say they have put starting a family on hold due to a lack of work-life balance. This includes 42% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennial jobseekers.

Canada's fertility rate is at its lowest ever level, says Susan Prentice, professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba.  

“Women increasingly are choosing to have fewer children. Canada is not the only country — this is a pattern that we see all around the world as women's education rates rise, employment rates rise and live births fall,” she says.

“In general, we know from decades of social science research that it's women who change their life patterns much more than men to accommodate work and family strains.”

Work-life balance and retention: look at the numbers

When Quebec instituted progressive labour laws in 1997 that allowed for more family leave and the lowest childcare rate in the country, there were marked increases in both women’s participation in the labour market and the province’s fertility rate, says Prentice.

“Where there are supportive family policies and supportive services, perhaps people will in fact choose to have more children,” she says.

“For all those people who thought that childcare and parental and maternity leave was some giant war against the family, maybe quite to the contrary — maybe it's one of the very best ways to support families and enable people to pick the families size that they want.”

Other provinces have been catching up, and the federal government is also investing billions in childcare programs and $10 childcare across the country – good news for employers that risk losing half of their talent without it.

“You're more likely to use lose your talented women than your talented men if there's not good family leave policies, good childcare access, affordability and access to services. And since that's looking at about half the talent in the population, employers have a big stake in making sure they have access to the full pool of talent,” says Prentice.

“We've made huge investments in people's education and training and skills and experience, and it will be inefficient for the labour market if we can't keep these people who want to work, working.”

Family planning, work-life balance about more than children

While it is assumed that family planning and work-life balance is mainly about childcare, that’s not always the case as family care can involve a much wider range of responsibility, she says.

“Work-life balance is not only necessarily you as a parent of young children, it could also be you as a daughter or a son, or a grandchild, or a niece or a nephew of older family who you provide caregiving to.”

Workers are increasingly looking for work and family measures to help them reconcile caregiving, says Prentice.

“I think we all got more clear through the pandemic, if we hadn't been before, that caregiving is a lifelong, whole life course. There's caregiving that happens at all stages of life, and many people are also caring for older family members. So, work and family balance often is only thought of as children, but it can also mean elder care.”

What this means for employers, she says, is that workplace policies that don’t provide for the care of family members other than children can have knock-on effects that inhibit workers’ ability to add even more children.

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