Project Details

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Self-employment for Women: Policy Options that Promote Equality and Economic Opportunities

By: Jennifer Rooney, Donna Lero, Karen Korabik, Denise Whitehead

Recent changes in the Canadian labour force, along with other demographic and social trends, have altered the nature of work. Growth in the number of individuals involved in non-standard forms of work, including self-employment, has resulted in an increasing proportion of Canadians who fall outside of labour and social protection policies. In 2002, more than 2.3 million Canadians (15 percent of the labour force) were self-employed (Bowlby 2002). While self-employment has declined slightly in the last two years, over the last quarter century, particularly in the last decade, self-employment grew more rapidly than total employment, especially among women (Schetagne 2000).


Self-employed women are more likely than their male counterparts to be in the service sector, to have home-based businesses, to be own-account and to work part time (Hughes 1999). The greater likelihood of reduced earnings as a result of these factors affects their ability to save for maternity, sickness and other family-related leave, to purchase health and business insurance, and to access business financing. These gender divisions within self-employment call for more gender-based policy analyses. To address this need, our research focussed on documenting challenges to self-employed women's financial security, particularly when their earnings are interrupted after childbirth/adoption or for personal or family health reasons, and identifying policy mechanisms that could promote greater economic security for self-employed women.


The project employed a Policy Delphi methodology, involving multiple rounds of contact with various stakeholder groups through surveys and interviews in three phases of data collection. Key informants included 168 self-employed women from across Canada involved in a variety of occupations, and 56 representatives from federal and provincial governments, banks and credit unions, the insurance industry, agencies that contract the services of self-employed women, professional associations and non-profit organizations that offer training and support to self-employed women. This project was funded by Status of Women Canada's Policy Research Fund.

The Full Report is available online.

For more information contact: Donna Lero

This project was funded by Status of Women Canada