The Second World War and Canadian women

Topic: BusinessManufacturing
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Last updated: March 31, 2019

The Second World War occurred between 1939 and 1945. Canada took part in the War united with Great Britain under the Common Wealth association. Over the course of the war, some 1.

1 million Canadians served in the army, the navy and the air force. Consequently, some 45 000 soldiers died in the war while 54 000 were wounded. However, many more suffered hardships back home and even abroad as a result of the war. Despite this, the war is said to have strengthened the Canadian economy and resulted into the diversification of their economy into manufacturing.

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(History, n.d.)Canadian women also took part in the war. They served their country hand in hand with their male counterparts. According to Pierson, the role of women in the Second World War is seen as significant for the simple reason that hitherto, there were no women in the armed force. The armed forces, was predominantly all male.

There were no women in the army, the navy or the air force. Thus, with the participation of women, the tradition of an all men armed force was seriously challenged. More over, it provided a new area from which women could also be able to access employment. Up till then, the women’s place was the home setting or in agriculture. Not only did the participation of these women pave way for future generations to join the armed forces, but it also increased awareness of women’s equality issues in the society.

Canadian women joined the women’s division of the armed forces. (1986) While the women were not allowed to fight, they were welders, pilots, nurses and clerks in the wartime industries. In addition to these jobs they held in the armed force, they were still home makers, keeping their families together in addition to protecting the home front and the Canadian way of life. (CBC, 2008) More over, they also rendered their services to charities.

Before the war, only some 600 000 women held permanent war however during the war the number rose to about 1 200 000 women. (History, n.d.)According to human resources and social development Canada, since the 1800s, the Canadian society was primarily an agricultural society.

However, urbanization later resulted in the transfer from agriculture to industry and the service sector. By 1941, about 26% of the Canadian labor force worked in the agricultural sector. Nonetheless, at about the same time the agricultural sector began to decline. With urbanization and industrialization the Canadians were losing their agricultural jobs to machines. More over, there was little demand for farm products.

Thus, the shift from blue collar jobs (jobs that are manual in nature and require few or no skills)  to white collar jobs (jobs that require certain skills through which people earn incomes). In what can be termed as the feminization of the labor force, many women joined the labor force during the Second World War. While they hitherto held low paying jobs in the domestic and service sector realms, they could now move on to well paying jobs in the manufacturing sector. For instance, in 1939, only about 3% of the women held jobs in the aircraft industry. However, by 1944, the number had risen to about 30%. Conversely, after the war, the women left the job market and returned to their traditional duties of raising a family hence the baby boom. Thus, between 1946 and 1946, the percentage of women who worked in the agricultural sector dropped drastically by more than 25%. (2006)Female participation in the Canadian labor market, however, began to rise consistently from the 1960’s.

In 1951, the women in the labor market accounted for only 24%. This figure rose to 30% by 1961. Towards the end of the 60’s, the figure stood at an impressive 40%. By the 1970’s 50% of the women were in the labor market. The driving force for the involvement of women in the labor market was first and fore most the elimination of social barriers. Other reasons included the falling birth rate in Canada at the time and urbanization.

Still, education also played a significant part in their involvement. The higher the women got educated the higher their involvement in the labor market. (HRSDC, 2006) Besides, insufficient male wages and also the absence of a male bread winner, with the men fighting in the war also led women to join the labor market. (Nielson, 2005)According to Creese, despite the increase in the number of women in the labor market, women in Canada had no right to work. They were supposed to depend on their husbands for support and were therefore not even entitled to unemployment relief. The Vancouver labor movement was the first to address the issues of women at work. The depression of the 1930’s marked the time when women began to challenge the state of affairs with the unemployed women asking for their equal treatment. (1988) Despite, this there still exists certain disparities in the involvement of women in the labor movements and markets and that of their male counterparts.

Women still receive lower incomes as compared to their male counterparts. Women continue to be discriminated against in Canada. What is more, the stereotypes on the kind of jobs that the women should hold still abound. Also, the role of government policies is a major factor why the women are still few in the labor market and the labor movements.

(Status of women Canada, 2006) The policies are reflective of discriminatory labor practices. According to the Status of women Canada, activism more so between 1950 and the early 1980’s, was responsible the increased involvement of women in the labor force in addition to addressing the inequality between men and women in terms of income. With decreased activism, the rate fell. (2006) The activism was later to decline which means the gains that were made were not consolidated or the issues that affected women dealt with appropriately.Ultimately, women were part of the Second World War though not in the front line, they still participated by being nurse or clerks.

The Second World War considerably led to an increase in the number of women in the labor force. However, despite all their hard work, they still do not occupy an equal place as their male counterparts in post war Canadian society. The women still earn lower wages and salaries. This could be attributed to low activism for the rights of women. The Canadian society is still very much discriminatory. Also, stereotypes about women as the dependants of men and their place in society are still head. Canadian women need to fight extra hard so that these stereotypes can be done away with.

Furthermore, the government needs to change its policies that seem to be in support of discrimination against women.


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