The Gender Wage Gap Revisited

Statscan have released their regular (about every 5 years) statistical compilation, Women in Canada. In a box in the earnings section – around Table 20- one will find a short summary of a paper by Michael Baker and Statscan employee  Marie Drolet from the December, 2010 issue of Canadian Public Policy.

Entitled “The Gender Wage Gap Revisited” it states that:

“When comparing earnings of women and men, the data show that men earn more than women. For example, the ratio of female–to–male annual earnings for full-year full-time workers has been relatively steady at around 0.72 since 1992. However, examining the female–to–male earnings ratio as a means to examine the existence and size of a gender pay gap may not be appropriate—particularly because among men and women working full-time, weekly work hours differ: according to the Labour Force Survey, men employed full-time usually worked 3.7 hours longer than full-time women in 2007.

Gender differences in pay may be more appropriately measured using hourly wages. Comparing the average hourly wages of women and men, the ratio was 83.3% in 2008 – up from 75.7% in 1988.”

In short, the gender gap is smaller and also less static when measured in terms of  hourly wages rather than the annual earnings of full-time workers.

The impression is left that  gender discrimination is less prevalent than we had thought.

However, the journal piece goes on to note that, when characteristics such as education are controlled for, younger women should actually be earning more per hour than men, and that 100% of the gender hourly wage gap is unexplained by observable worker characteristics. In short, the gap is still large, and  plausibly explained by employer discrimination.

The article does not address the issue of why women in full-time jobs work fewer hours than comparable men. It could be argued that this is the result of a choice. However, it could also be argued, as I would, that the choice is constrained by the gendered division of household work, and by under-provision of services needed to support working women, notably accessible, affordable child care and elder care services.


  • Interestingly, the box shows a wage ratio of 90% for the youngest group.

    In partial defence of StatCan, the section on part-time work gets into the issue of choice versus family responsibilities.

  • Occupational segregation – the split between higher-paying, male-dominated jobs, and lower-paying, female-dominated jobs – explains a big part of the gap. (And further, the split within occupational categories, between higher-paid “male” sub-categories and lower-paid “female” subcategories). Again there is the question of “choice” (women “choose” to be elementary- rather than secondary-school teachers) but this is strongly conditioned by various social forces.

    For more on this, see pp. 106-107 in “Work and Labour in Canada: Critical Issues,” 2009, by, er, Andrew Jackson.

  • Here is the REAL reason why women earn less than men: They have different expectations in life, and the female preference for rich men forces men to earn more.

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