Gender and job quit rates

Women face what has been called “statistical discrimination” in getting employment. That is, an assumption exists that a woman is more likely to leave the job in order to have children, and thus women are less likely to be hired. A new study from Statistics Canada finds evidence that this is not the case, at least after 1994.

Gender differences in quits and absenteeism

1983 to 2003

Female workers are traditionally considered more likely than men to quit their jobs, to be absent or to take more days off for family reasons. In the past, this gender difference has been offered as an explanation for the wage gap between men and women.

This new study documents gender differences in quitting and absenteeism. It shows that differences in quits and absenteeism between men and women are now fairly small.

The study found that since the early 1990s, women have been no more likely to quit their jobs than men. Quit rates among women had been higher than those of men before 1994. But since then, the gap has virtually disappeared.

For example, 5.5% of men quit their job in 1984, compared with 7.0% of women. By 1994, the rate for women was 5.6%, almost identical to the rate of 5.5% for men, and in 2002, these were 7.7% and 7.6%, respectively.

The study defined quits as those occurring when workers did not return to the previous employer in the same year or the year following the quit.

In addition to quits, women can take temporary leaves for maternity reasons. For example, this study found that 4.2% Canadian women took temporary leaves due to pregnancy and maternity in 2002.

The study used data from the 1983 to 2003 Longitudinal Worker File to examine the gender differences in quits. It also investigated gender differences in absenteeism with data from the 1999 and 2001 Workplace and Employee Surveys.

The study examined three types of absences (absences due to maternity or pregnancy reasons were excluded) separately: paid sick absence; other paid absences; and unpaid absence. The other paid absences included education leave, disability leave, and leaves due to bereavement, marriage and jury duty.

The study found that, on average, men took two days of paid sick absence, while women took about four days of paid sick absence per year. Half of this gender difference in paid sick absence can be explained by factors such as age, wages and union status.

However, there were no gender differences in terms of the other paid and unpaid absences. The only exception was women with young children. On average, they took two more days of unpaid absences than women who did not have young children.

The study indicates that, since the 1990s, the quitting behaviour of Canadian women more closely resembled that of Canadian men than it used to. And the gender differences in unscheduled absences were relatively small in Canada.

The research paper “Gender differences in quits and absenteeism in Canada” is now available as part of the Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series (11F0019MIE2007296, free), from the Publications module of our website.

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