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Policy Matters: Pamela Uppal

Later this year, Canadians will vote in the 43rd federal election. Many non-profit organizations, networks, and coalitions see elections as a critical opportunity to raise relevant public policy issues. Recently, the rules for charities engaging in public policy have become a prominent source of debate and discussion in government and the sector. As we countdown to the next election, The Philanthropist will be asking non-profit leaders what public policy issues are top of mind for them.

Name and organization: Pamela Uppal, Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN)

What current election issues might impact your work? 

In this election ONN is closely monitoring issues that impact women’s economic empowerment. While this can span any number of issues (e.g, affordable housing, income security, gender-based violence), we are specifically interested in how the federal government facilitates decent work for women. This is because they play a critical role in setting policy direction, have jurisdiction over key labour force levers, and can model equitable systems for other provinces/territories and countries.

In Canada, 47% of the labour force consists of women workers while 80% of our nonprofit sector workforce does. Labour is inherently gendered and racialized, and thus any work on women’s economic empowerment must take into account diverse women’s experiences in the labour market. When policies use an intersectional gender lens, not only do they impact the most vulnerable women workers but also raise the floor for everyone.

What issues would you like to bring more attention to in the election? 

In Canada, women are more likely to be primary caregivers and work in precarious or low-wage industries and occupations with limited benefits, particularly racialized, immigrant, Indigenous women, women with disabilities and Trans women. This significantly impacts their economic empowerment. Two solutions the federal government can implement are access to a high-quality and affordable childcare system and equitable employment insurance (EI) benefits.

Evidence across jurisdictions highlights how a high-quality and affordable childcare system can better support women’s participation in the labour force after having children and mitigate the gender wage gap over their lifecycle. An EI benefits system that has a lower number of hours required to qualify for benefits, no waiting periods, and a higher benefits replacement rate during maternity and parental leave can ensure more women qualify for EI and that there is a wider uptake of shared leaves between parents.

Where can we learn more about these issues?

Expanding how we think about women’s economic empowerment in Canada’s non-profit sector

Women’s Voices – Stories about working in Ontario’s Nonprofit Sector

No equality without universal child care

ONN’s EI policy brief

Pamela Uppal is Project Lead - Decent Work for Women at Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN). Over the past 10 years she has been connecting theory with practice, engaging on three fronts: research initiatives, frontline work, and policy dialogues.