The Current

Women still earn 25% less as Canada slips down global rankings

Canada has slipped 18 places in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap rankings, falling from 19th to 35th in just two years.
The most blatant inequalities have been resolved, an expert says, leaving more difficult issues which have stalled progress. (Shutterstock)

Read Story Transcript

Women working full-time in Canada earn 74.2 cents for every dollar that full-time male workers made.

That means when you compare a man and woman doing the same work in a 9-5 job — but divided by this pay gap — the woman essentially works for free after 3:55 in the afternoon. Annually, they work for free from September 28 onwards.

The divide became apparent recently, when Canada slipped 18 places in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap rankings, from 19th to 35th, in just two years.

The drop is part of longer trend, according to Sarah Kaplan, the director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy. She tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that Canada has "plateaued." But she says it's a trend among many developed countries, including the U.K. where the BBC's China Editor just resigned after learning that two male colleagues earned 50 per cent more than her for the same international editor post.

By the numbers

Statistics Canada revealed that in 2017 women working full-time earned 74.2 cents for every dollar that full-time male workers made. Things have gotten better: In 1984, women working full-time made only 65 cents compared to every dollar a man earned.

There's another way that you can look at the numbers and that's with the hourly wage rate.  This takes into account the fact that men typically work more hours than women. Using that measure, women earned 87.9 cents for every dollar a man earned last year.

Again, things have gotten a little better: In 1984 that earnings ratio showed that women earned 74 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

These wage gaps are happening in every province and in every type of employment.

According to the World Economic Forum, that current rate of change means the global economic gender gap won't be closed for another 170 years.

"Even if you look at Nordic Scandinavian countries, you see the same thing," Kaplan says. "Because we have in some ways eliminated some of the most obvious ways that there has been pay discrimination over the years, and that movement happened in the '80s and '90s."

"Now what's left are the really tricky things to solve and because they're hard to solve… it's very hard to get the willpower and that effort behind that to make all of those changes."

The issue can lead to morale issues, hampering productivity and in turn affecting the overall economy. Women can also opt of work if they feel less appreciated, while those who do stay in employment on a lower wage will end up with lower provisions for retirement.

Mary Cornish is a lawyer who has worked on pay equity for decades. She tells Tremonti that she has been asking the government to analyze the situation and takes steps to overcome it for years, but perhaps government research and recommendations aren't enough.

"Businesses need to look at what is their overall gender pay gap… what is their average salary and then try and figure out how to get it closed," she says. "It's that way that I think we can start making more direct action."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith and Ines Colabrese.