Status of Women Canada Ministerial Transition Book
Gender Wage Gap

Background

Despite labour market gains of Canadian women in recent decades, there is still a wage gap between women and men. The OECD ranks Canada 28th out of 34 OECD countries for the wage gap between male and female full-time, full-year workers. At 19%, Canada falls well below the OECD average of 15.6%. Definitions of the wage gap vary, however it is most commonly understood as the ratio of aggregate female to male wages and is used to measure the income disparity between men and women. The average earnings for women in all job tenures (as a percentage of men’s earnings) was 67% in 2011 - suggesting a gap of over 30%.

Up until the early 1990s, Canada’s gender wage gap had narrowed naturally as more women entered the labour market. However, progress has slowed as women’s labour market participation began to plateau. There are several issues beyond labour market participation that influence the wage gap. These include:

In recent years there has been international momentum to address the gender wage gap. In 2014, the G20 committed to closing the global gender labour market participation gap by 25% by 2025. Countries have also sought to introduce policy measures to level out participation rates, including “daddy quotas” to encourage men to take a portion of the government subsidized parental leave (e.g. Netherlands, Sweden) or subsidized daycare programs that facilitate women’s labour market participation.

Current Status

Addressing the wage gap issue is complex, however federal initiatives in a number of key areas, including direct transfers to Canadians with children, and tax credits for those providing care for the elderly or ill through the Caregiver Tax Credit have helped to address this issue. Through the Employment Insurance program, a number of benefits have a significant impact on the lives of working women and their families, including EI maternity and parental benefits and EI Compassionate Care. Through the Canada Labour Code and associated pay equity legislation, Canadians working in federally regulated sectors are assured equal pay. There are also labour market supports to increase participation in in-demand professions, such as apprenticeship grants. For each of these programs, there are opportunities for review and improvement to better respond to the needs of Canadians.

At the provincial and territorial (PT) level, Ontario has appointed a Steering Committee to report back on a gender wage gap strategy. The Steering Committee is currently undertaking consultations across Ontario. In Alberta, the new Ministry of Status of Women is expected to include elimination of the gender wage gap as a key priority, given that Alberta has the largest wage gap in the country.

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