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The Gender Wage Gap in Canada
April 16, 2013
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A new Statistics Canada paper offers some interesting insights into the gap between the wages of Canadian women and men.

Over the last 30 years there has been considerable public discussion and debate about the gender wage gap: the difference between what men and women are paid for equivalent work. One figure often cited in these discussions is that a female worker earns 72 cents for every dollar earned by a male worker.1

That figure is accurate when the comparison is based on annual earnings. According to the Statistics Canada publication Income Trends in Canada, women's annual earnings have been about 70% of men's since 1992.2  However, using annual earnings as a comparison point masks a key difference in working patterns of men and women, which is that employed women tend to work fewer hours than men. Canadian women are more likely than employed men to work less than 30 hours a week  - 23% vs. 12% - and seventy-two percent of Canadian part-time workers were female in 2012. Even among full-time workers, women are less likely to work 40 or more hours per week than men (44% vs. 49%).3 Given that hours worked can affect annual earnings, some analysts have argued that hourly wages are a more accurate metric for comparing the wages of women and men.4

The new Statistics Canada research paper, entitled The Evolution of Canadian Wages over the Last Three Decades, includes a chapter on changes in the male-female wage gap between 1981 and 2011. The authors report that women's median hourly wages, which grew more than those of men during the last three decades, were 87% of those of men in 2011, compared to just 77% in 1981. The chapter also analyzes some of the reasons behind the relative gains in women's wages.  For example, women are staying in their jobs longer. In 2011, women's average time in a job with the same employer was the same as that of men, compared to 1981 when women's average level of job tenure was only 74% of that of men.

Other factors related to women's gains in hourly wages include the growing tendencies of Canadian women to have high levels of education and be employed in higher paying sectors of the labour force, including unionized occupations. Women are now more likely to be unionized than men (even though levels of unionization have dropped for both genders). The above factors account for approximately two-thirds of the narrowing of the gender wage gap between 1981 and 2011, according to the authors, however, a significant portion of the gender wage gap cannot be explained by employment factors.

Read: The Evolution of Canadian Wages over the Last Three Decade

Sources:  1. The Gender Wage Gap, Pay Equity Commission, retrieved on April 12, 2013.

2. Morissette, R., Picot, G., & Lu, Y. (2013). The Evolution of Canadian Wages over the Last Three Decades (No. 2013347e). Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.

3. Canadian Labour Force Survey, unpublished data. Retrieved on April 12, 2013.

4. Baker, M., and M. Drolet. 2010. "A New View of the Male/Female Pay Gap." Canadian Public Policy. Vol. 36. No. 4. p. 429-464.