Ontario officially recognizes Equal Pay Day

Labour groups call for action to close gender wage gap

For the first time, the government of Ontario has proclaimed April 16 as Equal Pay Day.

Meant to focus a spotlight on the earnings gap between men and women, the move has been lauded by unions and women’s groups.

"No more waiting and no more excuses," said the Ontario Federation of Labour’s secretary-treasurer Nancy Hutchison. "Ontario's economy has for too long exploited women's labour and minimized the value of our work. We cannot and will not continue to endure this and are adamant that our daughters and granddaughters be treated equitably in the job market."

On the eve of Equal Pay Day, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (an independent non-profit research organization focusing on economic and social policy), released a report highlighting the growing wage gap between men and women in Ontario.

Entitled A Growing Concern: Ontario’s Gender Pay Gap, the report found the gap had grown to 31.5 per cent. That is, on average, women made 68.5 cents for every dollar men made in 2011. According to the report, that translates to an annual increase in earnings by $200 for men — from $48,800 in 2010 to $49,000 in 2011. For women, that meant a decrease of $1,400 — from $35,000 in 2010 to $33,600 in 2011.

According to the Equality Pay Coalition, it will take more than five decades to close that wage gap.

“Without a new plan to combat pay inequity, at the current rate, Ontario women will have to wait about 52 years before they have the same average annual earnings as men,” explained Mary Cornish, chair of the coalition and the report’s lead author.

While labour groups have called on employers to take pay and employment equity measures, the battle remains an uphill one, according to Cornish.

She cited raising the minimum wage and public investment in affordable child care as some examples to rectify the wage gap.

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