Ontario’s gender pay gap inspires call for Equal Pay Day
TheStar.com – news/Canada – Premier Kathleen Wynne asked to declare April 9 Equal Pay Day to raise awareness of Ontario’s 28 per cent gap.
Apr 09 2013. By: Laurie Monsebraaten, Social justice reporte
For an average woman in Canada, equalling an average man’s yearly pay would require working an extra three months — meaning her 2012 workload would finally end roughly on Tuesday.
That is the rough calculation of Ontario’s Equal Pay Coalition, which is therefore calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to declare April 9 Equal Pay Day to raise awareness and work to close the province’s 28-per-cent gender pay gap. (On average, a woman makes 72 cents for every dollar a man earns.)
“A lot of people don’t recognize there still is a gap,” said Toronto human rights lawyer and coalition chair Mary Cornish. Under Cornish’s leadership, the coalition pushed Ontario to pass its 1987 Pay Equity Act. At the time, Ontario’s gender pay gap was 38 per cent.
“Although it has improved, at this rate, women still have to work an additional 13 years to earn the same pay as men earn by age 65,” Cornish noted.
Equal Pay Days are recognized by the European Union and Australia’s federal government. Tuesday is Equal Pay Day in the United States where President Barack Obama has proclaimed the day to recognize the “full value of women’s skills and contribution to the labour force, acknowledge the injustice of wage discrimination and join efforts to achieve equal pay.”
“Governments around the world consider this a major issue and are taking multi-faceted approaches to address it,” Cornish noted. “In other aspects of Ontario political and economic life we plan, but we don’t plan for this. It’s time we did.”
Ontario should enforce and expand existing pay equity laws and promote employment equity which helps women move into better paying professions and positions, she said. More broadly, the government could help close the gap by supporting collective bargaining, raising the minimum wage and providing more affordable child care, she says.
Since 60 per cent of minimum wage earners are women, “a minimum wage increase would be an instant down-payment on pay equity,” Cornish added.
Ontario’s Pay Equity Commissioner Emanuela Heynick endorses the coalition’s call for an annual Equal Pay Day and a concerted government effort to tackle the issue.
“Closing the gap requires the combined efforts of the public, businesses and governments in a comprehensive plan to strategically target the causes of the wage gap,” Heynick said in a letter to the coalition on Monday.
“The Office would be pleased to take a leading role in bringing interested parties together to scope out possible courses of action,” she added.
The coalition defines the gender pay gap by comparing all average annual earnings of men and women to capture both full- and part-time work. Lower pay is particularly persistent among younger women — between the ages of 35 and 44 — who earn 39 per cent less than young men, Cornish says in a report on how the government can close the gap, being released Tuesday.
Women with children earn an additional 12 per cent less than women without children, largely due to their reduced employment due to family responsibilities, the report notes.
The pay gap is a leading cause of women’s poverty. Women over age 65 are twice as likely as men to live in low income.
It is also an economic issue. A 2005 Royal Bank report estimates the annual lost income potential of Canadian women as a result of unequal income and labour force participation rates is $125 billion.
“Closing the gender pay gap benefits employers and workers by creating quality jobs with fair pay,” the report says.
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