Women’s wages shouldn’t come at a discount, but the gender pay gap in Canada hasn’t improved in decades. In fact, for many women it’s getting worse.
This is about economic justice for women
Women in Canada are being paid less than men for work of equal value. It’s happening to women no matter what their level of education or whether they work full or part-time. This wage discrimination exists because work traditionally dominated by women – like work in the caring professions – has always been undervalued compared to work traditionally dominated by men. The result? Women are making less over their working lives, and are more likely to live in poverty and end up retiring into poverty.
Wage discrimination is real
The numbers don’t lie, and they are appalling. Today – in 2019 – women overall make 32 percent less than men. But the gender gap is even wider for some. Here’s how, on average, different women fare compared to white men born in Canada:
- Racialized women make 40 percent less.
- Indigenous women make 45 percent less.
- Immigrant women make 55 percent less.
- Women with a disability make 56 percent less.
In 2004, a national Pay Equity Task Force laid out the path for a proactive approach to ending wage discrimination against women in Canada. Since then, trade unions and feminist organizations have consistently advocated for the implementation of the Task Force recommendations. Proactive pay equity regimes in several provinces—most notably Ontario and Quebec—offer good examples of what can be achieved, as well as what to avoid.
We can end wage discrimination
In December 2018, fourteen years after the Pay Equity Task Force report, pay equity became the law.
The Pay Equity Act requires public and private sector employers in the federal jurisdiction to take proactive steps to make sure different jobs are compared for their value in the workplace and evaluated based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions, leaving no room for gender discrimination.
The Act requires employers with more than 10 employees to carry out a structured pay equity analysis to ensure that their compensation practices are in line with pay equity requirements, develop a pay equity plan, and make any adjustments required. Plans are to be reviewed every five years, and unionized employees as well as non-unionized employees in larger workplaces must be involved in developing and updating the plan.
The legislation will be enforced and administered by a Pay Equity Commissioner, who will work under the umbrella of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).
Our wait is not yet over, however. Trade unions and pay equity experts identified a number of concerns with the bill that did not get fixed before it passed. The new law does not take effect until regulations are developed, and the new Pay Equity Commissioner is in place. It could be another few years before women see any real difference in their paycheques.
We need the federal government to:
- Work with unions and employers to develop pay equity regulations in a timely fashion;
- Make sure the regulations close any loopholes that would allow an employer to avoid meeting their obligations;
- Introduce pay transparency measures, including an obligation to file pay equity plans as well as details about compensation for workers in all equity-seeking groups; and
- Ensure the office of the Pay Equity Commissioner has enough funding to implement the legislation and hold employers accountable.
Canadian women are done waiting for an end to wage discrimination. It’s past time to value women’s work, close the pay gap and make pay equity the law. Add your voice now.