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Single moms in B.C. hard-hit by part-time job losses during pandemic

Last Updated Jan 17, 2021 at 9:28 am PDT

FILE - This April 22, 2014, file photo shows an employment application form on a table during a job fair at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

Part-time work can be key for single moms who need to balance childcare, work

Single moms are being confronted with a lack of flexibility, opportunity during the pandemic

Single mothers have been disproportionately affected by job losses, less likely to reenter workforce during recovery

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Single moms in Metro Vancouver are being hit especially hard by the loss of part-time jobs in this province during the pandemic, according to the coordinator of the Single Mother’s Support Services at the YWCA. 

Jenn Bateman says a lack of opportunity and a lack of flexibility create barriers to moms entering or reentering the workforce.

“Absolutely single mothers continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID and the shutdown of many industries. Mothers who are looking to re-access jobs or who have been out in the job market looking for new employment — not enough places are hiring,” she explains.

“We’re so fortunate that school has gone back but there’s always this looming thing of, ‘Will school be called off again? Will we have to homeschool our kids?’ And that’s put moms in a precarious situation where they have a hard time accessing employment with all the unknowns around them.”

RELATED: Women’s participation in workforce at lowest level in 3 decades due to COVID-19: RBC

In December, B.C. was the only province to add jobs, but all of the positions were full time and 20,300 part-time positions were lost.

Bateman says moms have less time than they used to and are more isolated from community support due to ongoing restrictions and the shuttering of some programs.

“A lot of them are just waiting it out until things open up again where they’ll be free to be able to both care for their child and return to work,” she says.

A lot of women work two or more part-time jobs in order to support themselves and their children, Bateman says. For example, one mother she works with lost both of her part-time jobs in March and is still waiting to be rehired.

“They need jobs that can work around childcare and daycare hours, around school hours, maybe around a shared parenting agreement. Part-time opportunities really provide them the flexibility they need in order to kind of make a life for themselves and their family.”

The struggle to find work is particularly pronounced for women of colour, Indigenous women and women who speak English as a second language, Bateman says.

RELATED: One-third of Canadian women consider quitting jobs due to COVID-19 pressures

Employment numbers have bounced back to 98.7 per cent of what they were pre-pandemic in B.C. according to Minister of Jobs, Economy Recovery and Innovation Ravi Kahlon.

But nation-wide, single mothers were disproportionately impacted by pandemic-related job losses, and have been less likely to recover.

A report released in September by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showed that 37.5 per cent of single moms with kids under 12 lost their jobs or had their hours drastically cut when the economy shut down in the spring.

By the end of the summer, one in three single moms were still either unemployed or underemployed.

“For single mothers, the economic lockdown wiped out two decades of economic progress at a stroke. And lack of support now threatens their recovery. Poverty rates among single parent families were already considerably higher than in couple families going into the pandemic. It has now magnified these stresses exponentially,”

A more recent report in the Globe and Mail found that “single parents have seen scant progress since the summer, despite a broad-based return of work.” Of the roughly 41,000 single parents who were unemployed at that time, about 30,000 were mothers.

Bateman says hiring a single mom does come with some uncertainty — a sick child or a school closure or exposure might require time off. But she doesn’t think this should deter potential employers.

“There has to be a willingness on the part of the employer to partner with the single moms if their quality of work is good,” she says.

“The stability that employment offers single moms is key, and they often stick around, but they do need that reciprocity of an employer who’s willing to work with them during these difficult and uncertain times in order to make it work for them long term.”