The Current

Closing the gender wage gap has been 'glacial' in some provinces, says researcher

Newfoundland and Labrador is promising it will soon create legislation to reduce the gender wage gap in the province, despite five years with little movement on it. But Katherine Scott says Canada still has work to do in creating a more equitable society.

There are 4 provinces in Canada that don’t currently have pay equity legislation

In Canada, there are 4 provinces without gender pay equity legislation. British Columbia and N.L. have promised that legislation is on the way, but Alberta and Saskatchewan haven’t made any such commitments. (Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock)

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Newfoundland and Labrador is promising it will soon create legislation to reduce the gender wage gap in the province, despite five years with little movement on it. But Katherine Scott says Canada still has work to do in creating a more equitable society. 

"I'd say progress has been glacial in the last number of years," Scott told The Current guest host Nora Young. 

Scott is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives. She said Canada has one of the largest pay gaps in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation, an intergovernmental organization of 38 countries that works to stimulate economic progress and world trade. 

In Canada, there are four provinces without gender pay equity legislation. British Columbia, along with N.L., has promised that legislation around pay transparency is on the way, but Alberta and Saskatchewan haven't made any such commitments. 

Last week, N.L. Premier Andrew Furey said his government would move forward during the next sitting of the House of Assembly this fall.

Bridget Clarke is advocacy coordinator with the St. John's Status of Women Council. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"It's a priority for us and we are pushing for it with something in the fall," Furey told reporters last week.

But advocate Bridget Clarke says that should be taken with a grain of salt. The N.L., government promised pay equity legislation five years ago, but CBC News learned its pay equity committee didn't meet for three of those years. 

"We've been told by the provincial government for many years that this has been something that's important to them and that they're working on it, without really more information about what that actually means or what's to come next, " said Clarke, advocacy coordinator for the St. John's Status of Women Council in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"So I think at this point, it leaves us with more questions."

This has been looked at on a federal level as well. Last year, the federal government created a task force to review the Employment Equity Act

In B.C., the government said in March it would move to reduce the gender pay gap by addressing systemic discrimination in the workplace through new pay transparency legislation.

In an emailed statement from the Ministry of Finance's Gender Equity Office, the province said it has completed the consultation phase and is currently reviewing those findings as it determines the next steps for drafting legislation. It didn't say when that legislation would be ready. 

Next steps

Scott said that as B.C. and N.L. look to develop their pay equity legislation, they have a few places to look for help, including examining how other provinces have made changes, as well as best practices around the world

But she says it's about more than just developing a good plan. After that, it needs to be implemented. Scott said that while resources are often given to developing the legislation, the enforcement sometimes falls short. 

Katherine Scott is a senior researcher at the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (Submitted by Katherine Scott)

"That's a common flaw certainly in a lot of employment protections," said Scott.

"That's been a real weakness and certainly something that advocates have long prioritized. It really matters how much or what kind of resources are attached to monitoring and compliance."

And even if those provinces create legislation, Scott said there is still more work to be done. She said much of the existing legislation focuses on the public sector, and to truly reduce the wage gap, it needs to apply to all workers. 

"One of the real fights is to expand pay equity legislation to encompass a broader section of workers and to really take action to … raise minimum wage, look at more employment protections, [such as] paid sick leave," said Scott. 

"It's really part of a package that we have to pay attention to to improve working conditions and standards in Canada generally to make sure to push everyone up from the bottom."


Written by Philip Drost. Produced by Shyloe Fagan.

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