‘Employment equity legislation could work to improve representation of women, Indigenous peoples, and visible minority groups in higher-paying occupations’
Wage gaps persist between men and women — as well as between white, Indigenous and visible minority groups — despite a wide range of legislation intended to close them, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.
The hourly wage gap between men and women in 2019 was still 19 per cent, although it was down from 27 per cent in 2000.
A large part of the gap is attributable to differences in men’s and women’s job characteristics, found the report.
For example, men in the private sector are more heavily represented in higher-wage industries such as oil and gas, while women are more heavily represented in lower-wage industries such as retail services or accommodation and food services, according to Tammy Schirle and Moyosoreoluwa Sogaolu, who wrote A Work in Progress: Measuring Wage Gaps for Women and Minorities in the Canadian Labour Market.
“Pay equity legislation has generally been ineffective in the private sector, as comparisons across male- and female-dominated job classes at the same company can be challenging” says Schirle. “Employment equity legislation could work to improve representation of women, Indigenous peoples, and visible minority groups in higher-paying occupations. However, the existing Employment Equity Act only applies to workers in federally regulated firms, who represent a small fraction of private-sector workers. When you take this into consideration, the shortcomings of such policies start to become apparent.”
The wage gap for women can also be attributed to “gendered expectations” placed upon them, according to a August 2019 briefing note for the federal finance ministry that found for every dollar a man earned, women earn only $0.87.
The 2015 estimates of the annual earnings of Canadian-born men and women who are white, Indigenous and members of visible minority groups, suggest that white women (working full-time, full-year) earned about 30 per cent less than white men. Visible minority women earned 17 per cent less, and Indigenous women earned 44 per cent less than white men. The gap between white men and visible minority men is smaller — at eight per cent — as is the gap between white and Indigenous men (18 per cent), says the report.
“Some progress has been made in the last two decades,” says Schirle. “But it’s an enduring problem. Policymakers should look at boosting access to child and elder care as well as incentives for both parents to use job-protected parental leaves. Policy must also be directed towards improving education and training opportunities across fields in which women, Indigenous peoples and members of visible minority groups are underrepresented.”
After adjusting earnings gaps to account for group differences in demographic and job characteristics (including education, industry, and occupation), substantial gaps remain between Canadian-born white men and all other groups of Canadian-born men and women with similar characteristics, says the authors.
When adjusted for education and select job characteristics, the earning gaps for recent immigrants who landed in the previous 10 years or less of all visible minority men are lower than those for white men, and the adjusted gaps are larger than the unadjusted gaps, most substantially so among recent immigrant visible minority men (40 per cent), says the report.
Some of the difference in average earnings between white men and racialized groups of men and women can be explained by inter-group differences in various characteristics that are valued in the labour market, says the authors.
For example, part of the difference in average earnings between white men and Indigenous men relates to differences in educational attainment.
“However, the adjusted gaps reflect the gap that remains unexplained, and we see that differences in human capital investment (education and training) do not help explain differences between white men and all other visible minority groups of men and women,” says Schirle.