Where are the
by Elspeth Tulloch
Do women's equality and the current federal training policy go together? If one refers to the former Conservative government's Labour Force Development Strategy, it would seem not.
Born of the perceived need for more skilled workers to help Canada compete in the global market, the LFDS was not the product of deep and abiding governmental concern for economic inequalities in the labour force. It was created to foster a "training culture" among interested parties, not to address the occupational and sectoral segregation of certain groups of workers, such as women.
This is not to say that labour force inequities are ignored by the LFDS. Women, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and people from visible minorities are identified as "equity groups" for special consideration under some of the LFDS programs and each of these groups holds one voting seat on the Canadian Labour Force Development Board. As well, Aboriginal people won the right to deliver and control training and re-employment programs that concern them.
But the idea of achieving labour force equity through training initiatives for these four groups is a secondary thrust of the LFDS. The document published by Employment Immigration Canada in 1991, entitled Employment: New Programs and Services 1991-92, suggests that equity is important because the designated groups are important sources of labour. Equity is not stated as a goal in its own right, worthy of effort because of the benefits it would procure the groups involved.
Moreover, the equity groups appear to be interchangeable. They are almost blurred together in the way they are listed in the main LFDS documents. Since the specific situation of each group is not explicitly acknowledged, it is as if they face common barriers to and within training, when in fact they also face unique barriers, and in some cases double and triple barriers.
As well, under the work-based Training component of the LFDS there is nothing to require the consideration of any particular group. The best wage subsidies are offered to employers who design and deliver employee training to workers facing possible lay off or to workers who are members of one of the equity groups. In other words, "women" are one of several groups of employees the employer may consider offering career advancement through training. There are also no overall measurable goals set out by the LFDS to monitor the success of any "equity plans" that employers would use to help with such career advancement.