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Devaluation of ‘women’s work’ partly responsible for Canada’s wage gap

But the gap has narrowed considerably over time, according to study

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 12:57pm

By Emma Crawford Hampel

Women in Canada earned, on average, C$0.87 (US$0.64) for every Canadian dollar earned by men in 2015, Statistics Canada said in a new study compiled using data from its monthly Labour Force Survey reports, and while the gender wage gap has narrowed over time, it persists in part due to differences in how female-dominated careers fields are valued,

In the report, released on International Women’s Day, StatsCan said more than half of all employed women are working in fields that are thought of as “traditionally female,” such as teaching, nursing and other health services. These occupations are more dominated by women, and workers in those fields tend to be compensated at lower wage rates than male dominated fields that require the same levels of skill and education or training.

For example, nursing—a field in which there are more women than men—and natural and applied sciences—which has more men—both require a university education and similarly high skill levels. However, the average wage for nurses in 2015 was C$35.37 (US$26.20), while the average wage in natural and applied sciences was C$39.85 (US$29.53) – a difference of C$4.48 (US$3.32) per hour, meaning nurses earned about C$0.88 (US$0.65) for every dollar those working in applied science earned in this comparison.

“Given female-dominated occupations largely resemble work women have traditionally performed in the household, the fact that women in these occupations tend to have lower wages than men in male-dominated occupations at the same skill level speaks to the devaluation of women’s work in both the private and public spheres,” report author Melissa Moyser wrote.

Other explanations for a lack of gender wage parity are offered in the report. For example, the author cited a 2014 article in the American Economic Review, “A grand convergence: Its last chapter,” that argued women may be “less adept at negotiating their pay or less interested in competing.”

The good news is the gap has declined considerably over time. In 1981, women earned C$0.77 (US$0.57) on the dollar, and the ratio stayed in this range until 1994, when it jumped to C$0.82 (US$0.61).

“In 2015, women were C$0.10 (US$0.07)closer to every dollar earned by men than their counterparts in 1981,” the report said. “One of the factors that has contributed to the improvement of the gender wage ratio over time is the increase in women’s educational attainment.

“Gender-based pay inequality tends to diminish with increasing levels of education, and women have sustained a long-term trend toward higher education.”

For university graduates in general, women earned C$0.88 (US$0.65) per dollar earned by men. For those with education higher than a bachelor’s degree, this increased to C$0.90 (US$0.67), and for those with less than a high school diploma, this fell to C$0.74 (US$0.55).

Devaluation of ‘women’s work’ partly responsible for wage gap: report