Job Flexibility, Mental Health Supports Are Top Canadian Priorities, Especially for Women

  • Poll identifies priority needs – from government, employers and family

Flexible working hours, free at-home testing kits, safe re-opening of schools and mental health supports are among the top priorities for Canadians at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest Prosperity Project cross-country poll.

Conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights in partnership with The Prosperity Project, CIBC and Enterprise Canada, the pulse survey found men and women largely aligned on top priorities, with the exception that women are almost twice as likely as men to cite emotional support from family (35% and 19%, respectively) and mental health support from government (30% versus 17%) as important needs.

Asked what is most needed from government, more COVID-19 home testing kits free of charge was a top choice for 35% of respondents. More mental health support was also high on the list of top priorities, cited by 24%.

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From employers, working Canadians chose flexible hours (31%), increased number of sick days (31%), hazard pay for essential workers (27%), flexible working locations (22%) and opportunities to take time off work without losing their position (21%) as priority needs.

At home, emotional support from family members was cited as a top need by 27% of respondents, followed by better load sharing of household responsibilities (24%) and more time to themselves (22%).

“Moving forward from the pandemic will clearly be a group effort – at home, at work and in government,” said Pamela Jeffery, founder of The Prosperity Project, a registered charity created to ensure Canadian women are not left behind in the COVID-19 recovery. “As a society, we must recognize and respond to these needs, collectively putting the supports in place.”

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Other highlights from the poll:

What Canadians Said They Need From Government

  • Government providing at-home testing kits free of cost was cited as a high priority for 40% of parents of children under 18, and 37% of all employed Canadians.
  • Safely re-opening schools is also a high priority for parents (35%).
  • Among employed Canadians, high priorities for government include hazard pay for essential work (30%), mandatory sick leaves (29%) and mental health support (27%).
  • Working mothers are more likely than working fathers to need mental health support (25% vs. 13%), financial support for a childcare provider when schools are closed (20% vs. 15%), and affordable childcare (16% vs. 7%).

What Canadians Said They Need From Employers

  • Women and men have slightly different requirements from their employers:
    • Women are more likely to want an increase in the number of sick days (35%) and hazard pay (30%), than men (27%, 24% respectively).
    • While more men need flexible working hours compared to women (33% vs. 28%), women need to be able to take time off from work without losing their position (24% vs. 18%).
  • For working parents, flexible working hours (33%) was cited as a top need from employers, followed by providing or increasing sick days (30%), hazard pay (23%) and flexible working locations (22%). Flexible hours are a more important need for fathers than mothers (35% vs. 31%), while flexible working locations are more important to mothers than fathers (27% vs. 19%).
  • Working mothers are more likely to want support for advancing their career, learning and development than working fathers (27% vs. 12%) and need opportunities to reduce working hours or job share without losing their jobs (22%, compared to 15% of working fathers).

What Canadians Said They Need From Family

  • As noted above, women are twice as likely as men to need more emotional support from family (35% vs. 19%). This is in line with women needing more mental health support. Women are also more likely to need financial support from family than men (21% vs. 15%).
  • 37% of working women cited emotional support from family as a top priority (compared to 19% of working men), while 30% need better sharing of household chores and responsibilities (versus 26% of men).
  • Family emotional support ranked even higher as a priority need for working mothers (44% vs. 21% of working fathers). For working mothers, other high priorities include better sharing of household responsibilities (42%, compared to 33% of working fathers), and better sharing of childcare responsibilities (24% vs. 15% of working fathers). Working mothers are also more likely to want time to themselves (33%) than working fathers (25%).
  • Parents (23%) are more likely to need financial support from their family than those who don’t have children (17%).

“Canadians know what they need,” said Pollara Vice-President Lesli Martin. “It isn’t any one thing, but a range of supports in all aspects of our lives.”

On behalf of The Prosperity Project, Pollara Strategic Insights conducted online interviews with a random sample of 1,513 Canadians 18 years and older, on January 13, 2022. The data is weighted as per the most recent national census by age, gender and region. Working parents are defined as those who are employed and are parents to children under 18 years; working mothers = women who are employed and parents to children under 18 years; and working fathers = men who are employed and parents to children under 18 years.

This survey is part of The Prosperity Project’s Canadian Households’ Perspective on the New Economy initiative. Partner organizations in the initiative are CIBC, Enterprise Canada and Pollara Strategic Insights.

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