Burnout is the new threat to Canada’s economy – especially for women

BY The Prosperity Project |
May 16, 2023 |

Poll shows 90% of Canadians see stress causing people to leave the workforce

TORONTO, May 16, 2023 – Nine in 10 Canadians feel that people are quitting the country’s workforce due to stress and burnout, according to The Prosperity Project’s 6th Canadian Household Perspectives survey. For most, the reasons cited are work-related – feeling stressed, being underpaid or not getting enough support – with women more likely to consider taking a step back from work.

More than three-quarters (77%) of women say they have considered quitting their jobs over work-related issues, compared to 66% of men.

“The immediate health threat from COVID-19 may have abated, but the economic threat is still very real,” said Julie Savard-Shaw, Executive Director of The Prosperity Project, a registered charity created to ensure Canadian women are not left behind in the COVID-19 recovery.

The annual online survey, conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights in partnership with CIBC and Enterprise Canada in April of this year, canvassed 1,001 adult Canadians across the country – mainly men and women who are currently working and some that have retired since 2020.

A key theme in the 2023 survey was attitudes and perceptions around workplace advancement as the pandemic recovery progresses. According to the survey results, men are more ambitious and optimistic than women when it comes to moving to a senior role. Women are more stressed about handling a senior role, while men are more concerned about getting paid enough for the amount of hours they put in.

“For women to accept a senior role, they need more flexible working options such as hours or location, they need to be valued as a team member and they need mentoring and affordable education and training options,” Savard-Shaw noted.

Nearly six in 10 employed Canadians (59%) are looking to change their job levels to a more senior role, with about three quarters (76%) being optimistic about this move. Men are notably more ambitious (64%) regarding the move to senior role compared to women (55%) and are slightly more optimistic about it (78% of men versus 75% of women). Conversely, 7% of those employed – 9% of women and 5% of men – have taken or are considering taking a step back from their work. And a third (33%) are not seeking a move from their current job level at the moment, with women more likely to say they are not looking to advance than men (36% vs. 31%).

“Employers need to recognize and understand the stresses people are feeling, and adjust to keep our workforce robust,” Savard-Shaw said. “A practical work-home balance, particularly for women with added burdens such as childcare, is critical to both retention and advancement.”

Other highlights from the poll:


  • 90% of Canadians believe that burnout is prevalent in the Canadian work force. A third (32%) feel that many people are quitting their jobs due to burnout, 46% feel that this is happening occasionally, and 11% feel it is happening but rarely.
  • Notably, 71% of Canadians have at least considered quitting their jobs due to burnout or stress – 32% report actually quitting, while the remainder have at least thought of it. Women are more likely to say they quit their jobs because of stress or burnout than men (39% vs. 25%), and are also more likely to think of quitting their jobs at least occasionally than men (38% vs. 30%).
  • Most of the reasons for considering taking a step down are related to job stress (51%), not feeling appreciated for the amount of work they put it (42%) or not getting enough support at work (29%). Although the reasons are similar among men and women, women are more likely to experience work related stress than men (57% vs. 43%), are more likely to not feel appreciated at work (49% vs. 33%) and are more likely feel they don’t have enough support at work (35% vs. 22%).
  • Some decided to prioritize themselves (34%), with women more likely to take this step than men (37% vs. 28%). A majority see those who prioritize themselves over work as positive affirmative action (83%) and don’t see stepping down as a sign of weakness (72%). That said, men are more likely than women to see this as a sign of weakness (28% vs. 19%).
  • Working women find it more difficult to manage their households and work responsibility than working men (53% vs. 42%).
  • Childcare is a key concern. Mothers of kids under 13 years have considered quitting much more often than the fathers (80% vs. 63%) – among them, four-in-ten (41%) say they have left a job, compared to 24% of the fathers. Almost one-fifth of women specifically work hours that allow them to handle the childcare as well as work (17% vs. 6% of men). More than a third of working mothers (35%) say it is very difficult for them to arrange for childcare.


  • Women are more likely to feel that they are not being fairly compensated because of their gender (46%) than men (30%). They are also more likely to feel that their colleagues are not fairly compensated because of their gender (29% women vs. 18% men).
  • Employed BIPOC Canadians are much more likely to feel they are not fairly compensated (31%) and that their colleagues are not fairly compensated (28%) because of their racial identity compared to employed Caucasian Canadians (18% and 15% respectively). Similarly, 35% feel they have been passed over for a promotion or feel a colleague was passed over for a promotion (27%) because of their ethnicity compared to White Canadians (14% and 18% respectively).
  • While salary remains the most important factor to consider when moving to senior role for both men and women, there are a few subtle differences between other priorities: working women are more likely to want work flexibility in terms of hours and location (25% vs. 20% men), to be seen as a valuable member of the team (22% vs. 14% men) and to be able to take the allotted vacation time off (21% vs. 16%).

“This research indicates that significant segments of Canada’s workforce are struggling, which could have serious ramifications for the entire economy,” said Pollara Senior Vice-President Lesli Martin. “Addressing the stresses that are impacting career decisions will be crucial in shaping Canada’s workplace evolution.”

On behalf of The Prosperity Project, Pollara Strategic Insights conducted the online survey from April 3 to 11, 2023, among N=1,001 adult (18+) Canadians. This dataset mainly includes men and women who are currently working and some recent retirees that have retired since 2020 onwards. It also includes some who are unemployed or stay at home/care for family. The dataset is weighted as per the profile of these Canadians by age, gender within the region to be representative of the proportions of this population. Online surveys do not permit the application of a margin of error. However, as a guideline, a probability sample of N=1,001 carries a margin of error of ±3.1% nineteen times out of twenty.

This survey is part of The Prosperity Project’s Canadian Households’ Perspective on the New Economy initiative. Partner organizations in the initiative are CIBC, Enterprise Canada and Pollara Strategic Insights.

About The Prosperity Project

Launched in May 2020, The Prosperity Project is a registered charity conceived by a diverse group of 62 female leaders from across the country – women who have historically made a difference and are committed to continuing to promote positive change as active participants in The Prosperity Project.

The organization was founded by Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Women’s Executive Network and Canadian Board Diversity Council. The Prosperity Project is taking action to explicitly link women and prosperity, underscoring the economic importance of gender equality. Specific initiatives include an awareness campaign – modelled on the famous “Rosie the Riveter” campaign from World War II – to promote women’s workforce participation and advancement and a matching program connecting registered charities with business expertise to bolster these organizations’ in-house skills and expertise.

Visit The Prosperity Project website at www.canadianprosperityproject.ca.

See the downloadable press release


Caitlin Morrison