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Women make up nearly half the Canadian work force and more than 50 per cent of postsecondary students. Yet, when it comes to entrepreneurship, they fall short of men.

Women make up nearly half the Canadian work force and more than 50 per cent of postsecondary students. Yet, when it comes to entrepreneurship, they fall short of men – and the gap between the sexes hasn't closed much over the past decade.

The relative lack of female entrepreneurs is unusual because Canada enjoys a high rate of entrepreneurship relative to other developed nations, a factor that helps drive our economic growth. But while Canadian men start businesses more frequently than their international counterparts, Canadian women are only average.

"Thus, Canadian men were the drivers of the above-average rates of entrepreneurship, translating into a larger gender 'entrepreneurship gap' in Canada," notes TD Economics deputy chief economist Beata Caranci in a report.

Risk aversion and a desire for greater work-life balance could be holding back Canadian women. These factors may also help explain why women that strike out on their own tend to have businesses that are smaller and exhibit slower revenue growth.

But this gap could soon narrow. "The most recent Canadian data show that the proportion of women-owned businesses that intend to expand their businesses is higher than men [-owned] and has increased," Ms. Caranci notes.


A debt binge? Not to worry

The alarms have been sounded: We're drowning in debt. Canadians have been piling on so much of the stuff that the mere mention of Freedom 55 brings chuckles. Perhaps more worrisome is that studies show an "abnormal" number of older Canadians still using credit instead of repaying what they owe.

But are older workers really being that reckless? National Bank Financial analyst Stéfane Marion doesn't think so. He points out that the proportion of the workforce aged 55 plus has jumped since the mid 1990s – from 23 per cent to more than 34 per cent. Workers aged 55 plus have doubled in just 10 years.

"Under these circumstances, it is absolutely normal to see a more elevated debt burden for older age groups that have a much greater attachment to the labour force than their predecessors," Mr. Marion contends.

"Given the aging of the labour force, a high employment rate for people aged 55 plus is actually good news for the potential growth rate of the economy as it guards against a process where workers are forced to embark on a process of mass deleveraging."


Stepping more lightly on Uncle Sam's coattails

We've all heard the refrain: For a prosperous future, Canadian businesses must seek out new, faraway markets and broaden ties well beyond the elephant that lives next door.

But Canada's reliance on the U.S. has already been in sharp decline. A new analysis from TD Economics shows a striking finding: Exports to the U.S. directly contributed an annual average of only 0.5 percentage points to Canadian GDP growth over the past decade. That's far below the contribution of 2.3 percentage points over the prior two decades.

There are a number of reasons for this phenomenon, including the surge in the Canadian dollar and the 2008-09 recession. Both diminished U.S. demand for our products and services.

This trend could reverse over the next few years as the U.S. economy picks up strength. But over the long-term, Canada's economic prosperity will be increasingly driven by trade with non-U.S. economies, said TD deputy chief economist Derek Burleton.

He predicts that by 2020, the U.S. will account for only two thirds of Canada's exports, down from a peak of 85 per cent in 2002.

"Canadian businesses are going to have to become more cost competitive in order to compete on the global stage," he warned.

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