Close the wage gap between men and women

Posted on April 19, 2016 in Equality Debates – Opinion/Editorials – April 19 is Equal Pay Day in Ontario, but the latest study indicates women still have a long way to go to catch up to what men earn.
Apr 18 2016.   Editorial

What needs to be done to close the gender wage gap? That’s a good question on April 19, Equal Pay Day in Ontario. But it’s not one anyone seems closer to answering despite countless studies that shine a bright light on the fact that women continue to make less than men.

What can be said is the more we learn, the more it seems to be about discrimination rather than other factors.

Consider that the latest Statistics Canada figures, from 2013, indicate that women in Ontario still make only 70.6 cents for every dollar a man earns, for a gap of 29.4 per cent. Then consider that no matter what women have done over the years to close the gap — whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder, getting more education, earning more experience or changing occupations — it has barely budged, according to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Among its findings:

– The higher up the ladder women climbed, the larger the wage gap. For the top-earning 10 per cent, the wage gap is 37 per cent, or $64,000 a year. That means that over a 35-year career, a woman in that category will earn $2.24 million on average less than a man.

– Even though the majority of post-secondary degree holders are women and they are moving into professions once dominated by men, their average annual earnings are still less than men’s for a gender wage gap of 27 per cent.

– Nor is the wage gap affected by which occupation women choose. In every category, including those where they are in the majority, women’s average annual earnings are less than men’s. For sales and services, for example, there was a gender pay gap of 48 per cent. For health care it was 37 per cent.

– Experience doesn’t close the wage gap, either. In fact, it seems to increase it. The gap increases to 38 per cent for women aged 55 to 64, from 23 per cent for women 15 to 24.

While this is only one report, it bolsters the findings of studies done over the decades in industrialized countries. After all that effort, the only thing that is clear is that studying the problem is not enough. Ontario needs a step-by-step plan to close the wage gap. And that is what the Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee, established a year ago, is supposed to come up with.

Though it plans to issue an interim report today, its final report, which will include recommendations on how to close the gap, won’t be out for at least another three months. That’s disappointing.

Almost as disappointing as the reason why today is Equal Pay Day. The date is set on April 19 because women working full time have to put in roughly three-and-a-half months extra to catch up to what men earned in the previous year.

That’s nothing to celebrate.

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