This fact sheet was created in partnership with the Rural Women Making Change Research Alliance.
Who Lives in Rural Areas?
- One in five Canadian women live in rural areas and of these, only 2% live on farms.
- Ontario has the largest rural population in Canada; however, due to the province's comparatively high urban population, only 19.4% live in rural or remote areas.
Rural Occupational Trends
- Many rural and remote communities experience "boom or bust" cycles of employment because their economies are dependent upon primary production, such as agriculture or resource development and unstable manufacturing industries, such as automotive and food processing.
- Rural women are more likely to be self-employed than their urban counterparts. Fourteen percent of women in rural and small town areas were engaged in non-farm self-employment as compared to 11% of women in urban areas in 2001. Recent growth in self-employment in rural areas has been in the less financially secure own-account category.
- As of 2006, 29% of all agricultural operators are female in Ontario, an increase of 2% since 2001.
- While workers in rural areas of Canada have lower skill levels than their urban counterparts, rural women tend to have more managerial and professional skills than rural men. There is little difference between the sexes across other skill levels.
- Women make up less than 3% of migrant workers. Most policies related to migrant work are designed to attract men. When women do arrive in Canada as migrant workers, work sites are ill-prepared to properly accommodate or protect them from discrimination and gender-based abuse.
Less Likely to Be Employed
- Unemployment rates are much higher in rural areas. While national unemployment rates for women are lower than men's, rural women in Ontario are the exception; those over age 24 are more likely to be unemployed than rural men.
- Rural women are more likely to work part-time and seasonally than their urban counterparts.
Lower Income Levels than Urban Workers
- There are greater percentages of low-income earners in rural areas throughout Canada, although the rural-urban income gap has decreased, in part because urban poverty has increased. Ontario has the lowest rural poverty rate. In 2000, the per capita annual urban-rural income gap in Ontario was approximately $4,500; in contrast, Nova Scotia had a gap nearing $6,000.
- Only 20% of self-employed rural women earn an income of $20,000 or more, compared to 31% of self-employed urban women and 43% of self-employed rural men.
- Employment agencies serving rural clients in Ontario report a lack of jobs paying above minimum wage.
Less Education and Limited Access to Training
- Compared to the national average, a person living in a rural area is 1.5 times more likely to have less than Grade 9 education.
- Thirty-one percent of rural women have a post-secondary education, which is 1% less than rural men, 4% less than urban women, and 6% less than urban men.
- The lack of training opportunities is a significant barrier for rural job-seekers in Ontario.
- Rural women are less likely to be eligible for EI and EI funded training because they are more likely than their urban counter-parts to be self-employed or work part-time or seasonally.
Getting there is Half the Work
- Travel is a central challenge for rural Canadians, who face far higher travel costs than urban Canadians.
- Only 15% of rural women in Ontario who have poor or intermittent access to transportation are employed and almost half (44%) of these women have incomes less than $10,000.
- In rural areas close to urban centres, more than a third of the labour force commutes to work in the urban centre.
- Only one-quarter (27%) of rural women live and work in the same municipality, in comparison to more than half of urban women (59%). Ninety-one percent of rural women travel to work in a car and 1% take public transit.
Other Factors for Rural Women
- The lack of child care services in rural communities and the distances that must be travelled to access care are further deterrents for working women in rural areas. Rural mothers are 1.2% more likely to be unemployed than urban mothers.
- Employment agencies serving rural clients are less likely to provide women-specific services or offer program supports like child care, transportation or training.
- Remote rural Ontario communities have seen a decline in populations in recent decades.
According to Census Canada:
- Urban areas have a population of 1000 or more, and no less than 400, per square kilometre.
- Rural areas are all those areas outside urban areas.
- Remote is a term used for rural communities that cannot easily access an urban centre by highway.