Can this Marriage Be Saved?
Women and the Canadian Labor Market

by Susan Wismer

Recently, Karen Lior (for Advocates for Community-Based Training and Education for Women) and I participated in a research project which, for me, is the latest in a series of projects I have conducted over the last fifteen years on women's education and training policy and its relation to the labor market. Our role in the current project was to take a look at the positive contribution that training can make to the lives of women.

We have very little information about the impact of training on women's position in the labour market

For the purposes of the research project, Karen and I were asked to set aside concerns about insufficient and poorly-used training resources in order to focus on situations in which training has proven itself to be of clear benefit to women. Using a gender analysis framework, we set out to find case studies of exemplary training. We looked at both women-only and mixed programs.

Good Training

During June and July of 1994, we contacted close to 100 people involved in training in Canada. Some of what we heard was disturbing. Major cutbacks and radical down-sizing in both private and public sectors are happening everywhere. As a result, many highly respected programs are either not operating at all, or only on a severely restricted basis. Among currently operating programs, insecurity about funding is endemic. Evaluation is difficult. Few training initiatives have good baseline data; even fewer are able to carry out long term follow-up, so that we lose the perspective of the only people who really know how useful (or not) training has been. We really have very little systematic information about the impact of training on women's position in the labour market (1).

Those programs which have managed to weather the storms of recession and globalization are surviving with an artfully constructed crazy quilt of program sponsors (2). We found very few high quality programs which were funded only by government or only by the private sector.

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