Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

March 07, 2008 07:00 ET

Canadian Labour Congress: New Report Reveals a Widening Wage Gap Between Men and Women in Canada

Unions react with year-long campaign to women's equality "once and for all !"

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 7, 2008) - It just doesn't pay to be a working woman in Canada today, according to a new report released by the Canadian Labour Congress. In fact, for today's younger, more educated working woman, it pays a lot less than it did just ten years ago.

"Canada's economy has a problem -- it pays women less than men. It pays women less even when we are just as skilled, just as educated and work just as long. It leaves us with less to live on when our working years are over and it rewards us less when we invest in higher education or put career ahead of family. The bottom line is women are still not equal, not even close, when it comes to the bottom line," says Barbara Byers, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

According to the report Working Women: Still a Long Way from Equality, women in Canada who worked full-time, full-year jobs in 2005 earned just 70 1/2 cents for every dollar earned by men in full-time, full-year jobs.

Compare this to the 72 cents women earned for every dollar earned by men doing similar work in the 1990s and it's clear things have not improved despite the fact that more women have invested in post-secondary education and more women have delayed having children in order to establish themselves in the workforce.

In fact, over the past ten years, women with post-secondary degrees have lost the most ground. Ten years ago, the wage gap saw them earning 75 cents for every dollar earned by men with the same qualifications. Today, their earnings have slipped to just 68 cents.

Byers says the deck is stacked against women largely because our workplaces and our social and labour market policies have failed to reflect the realities of womens' lives.

"Women are still expected to be the lead caregivers at home. It's still largely our job to take care of the kids, manage the household and, increasingly, our responsibility to care for aging parents. This limits the choices a woman has when she needs to work," she says.

Many employers demand long hours from full-time workers, fail to provide work schedules which match family needs, and penalize workers who take temporary leaves. This pushes many women into part-time jobs that are more unstable and pay less. It forces them to pay a big price if they drop out of the workforce for a year or two, or decide to work very long hours and not have children.

"We've been equal participants in Canada's workforce for two generations. We should be equally rewarded for our work. It's time for some things to change," says Byers.

To push for change, Byers says the labour movement is launching a year-long campaign to tell Canadians about the wage gap and how to close it. She says the report identifies a number of changes that would make a big difference, including:

- Access to affordable, quality child care.

- Raising the minimum wage to at least $10/hour.

- Changing minimum labour standards so an hour of part-time work gets paid the same as an hour of full-time work.

- Modernizing the federal EI program so people whose jobs no longer fit into the traditional nine-to-five mold, but work just as much can access their benefits.

- Improving public pensions so women, who live longer, are not rewarded with poverty for taking time away from the workforce to care for children.

- Changing labour laws to make it easier for people to join unions, especially lower-paid women in the private services sector.

"Unionizing every workplace in the country would certainly make a huge difference and close the wage gap. But we know that's not going to happen. It's not for everybody. So let's start talking about the things we can do for everybody because paying women 70 1/2 cents for every dollar of work we do has got to go," says Byers.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 136 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca

Contact Information

  • Canadian Labour Congress
    Jeff Atkinson
    613-526-7425 and 613-863-1413