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Social and Economic Development

Pauktuutit’s Socio-Economic Department has a mandate to cover a broad range of social and economic issues. Following the strategic direction from the Board of Directors, other work includes the areas of political equality and supporting women’s leadership, education, housing, early learning and child care, the protection and promotion of traditional knowledge, resource extraction, environmental issues, including climate change, and national and international engagement.

Pauktuutit staff work with other internal departments, external partners, funders and community stakeholders to meet its mandate. This often means seeking the input and perspectives of community members, representatives of other Inuit organizations, elders, youth and the subject-matter experts who form project advisory committees. Pauktuutit’s work would not be possible without the generous support of like-minded partners who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of Inuit women and their families and communities.

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Inuit in Canada consistently experience lower economic participation levels than the Canadian average. In 2012, the national average unemployment rate was approximately 7.3%, while for Inuit, the average unemployment rate was more than double at 16%.[1] Across Inuit Nunagat, the Aboriginal People’s Survey shows that the average unemployment rate for Inuit was 19.7%. This suggests that Inuit in urban areas are more likely to find employment than Inuit across the North.

At first glance, Inuit women across the North appear to be more successful at securing employment than Inuit men. Despite fairly similar participation rates, the unemployment rate for Inuit women in 2012 across Inuit Nunangat was 16.2%, compared with a rate of 23.5% for Inuit men.[2] This means that Inuit women and men are actively seeking employment and entrepreneurship at roughly the same rate, but Inuit women are more likely to be successful.

The greater success of Inuit women in the labour market is likely due to higher educational achievement. The Aboriginal People’s Survey shows that Inuit women are more likely to complete secondary school or equivalent than Inuit men in Canada.[3] Inuit women are also more likely to have a college diploma or university degree than men.

While comparatively the data appears positive, there is serious cause for concern around the participation of Inuit women in the Canadian economy and their ability to build strong careers and futures for themselves. The Aboriginal People’s Survey shows that only 46% of Inuit women aged 18-44 years old had completed the requirements for a high school diploma or equivalent in 2012.[4] The primary reason for leaving school was pregnancy and/or the need to care for children. Furthermore, the labour market participation rate of Inuit women in Inuit Nunagat is 60%. This means that approximately two out of every five Inuit women are not working and not looking for work.

The National Household Survey data shows that Inuit women are primarily working in (in order of importance): 1) sales and service occupations; 2) education, law and social, community and government services; and, 3) business, finance and administration occupations.[5] In other words, Inuit women are primarily working in the public sector. While the public sector is important across Inuit Nunangat and generally offers job security, leadership opportunities and fair pay, Inuit women are often in menial positions. In the Government of Nunavut (GN), for example, Inuit women tend to occupy positions of low power and low pay. Despite making up nearly 40% of the GN’s workforce, they consistently earn the lowest average income compared to Inuit men and non-Indigenous women and men.[6]

Overall, this means that while Inuit women are well represented in the workforce, they tend to earn less than Inuit men. In comparison to non-Indigenous Canadians, Inuit women are extremely disadvantaged. Both Inuit women with at least a high school education and Inuit women who have not completed high school have lower median incomes than their male counterparts.[7]

[1] Statistics Canada. Table 578-0002-Aboriginal peoples survey, educational attainment and labour force status, by age group and sex, Inuit population aged 15 years and over, Canada and Inuit Nunangat, occasional (persons unless otherwise notes), CANSIM (database).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Aboriginal Peoples Survey 2012: Gender Difference in Inuit Education and Employment. Retrieved from: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1422283951935/1422284231303.

[4] Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Aboriginal Peoples Survey 2012: Gender Difference in Inuit Education and Employment. Retrieved from: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1422283951935/1422284231303.

[5] Arriagada, Paula. (2016, February 23). First Nations, Metis and Inuit Women. Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14313-eng-htm.

[6] Government of Nunavut. (2014, October 2). 2014-2015 Public Service Annual Report. Retrieved from: http://assembly.nu.ca/sites/default/files/TD%20170-4(3)%20EN%202014-2015%2020Public%20Service%20Annual%20Report.pdf

[7] Statistics Canada. (2013, November 13). Nunavut (Code 62) (table). National Household Survey (NHS) Aboriginal Population Profile. 2011 National Household Survey. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 99-011-X2011007. Ottawa. Retrieved from: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/dp-pd/aprof/index.cfm?Lang=E (accessed July 26, 2016).