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  • Ontario's middle and working class families are losing ground August 15, 2017
    Ontario is becoming more polarized as middle and working class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper middle and rich families take home even more. New research from CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block reveals a staggering divide between two labour markets in the province: the top half of families continue to pile […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in October for the CCPA-BC fundraising gala, featuring Senator Murray Sinclair August 14, 2017
    We are incredibly honoured to announce that Senator Murray Sinclair will address our 2017 Annual Gala as keynote speaker, on Thursday, October 19 in Vancouver. Tickets are now on sale. Will you join us? Senator Sinclair has served as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba, […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • How to make NAFTA sustainable, equitable July 19, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is consulting Canadians on their priorities for, and concerns about, the planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood point out how NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise with respect to job and productivity […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • What’s next for BC? July 4, 2017
    Five weeks ago the CCPA-BC began a letter to our supporters with this statement: “What an interesting and exciting moment in BC politics! For a bunch of policy nerds like us at the CCPA, it doesn’t get much better than this.” At the time, we were writing about the just-announced agreement between the BC NDP […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Could skyrocketing private sector debt spell economic crisis? June 21, 2017
    Our latest report finds that Canada is racking up private sector debt faster than any other advanced economy in the world, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences. The report, Addicted to Debt, reveals that Canada has added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years, with the corporate sector […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

Equal Pay Day

Every year, women around the world celebrate (angrily) the day their average full-time full-year earnings have caught up to men’s average full-time full-year earnings from the year before.

This year in the United States that day fell on April 12th. In Germany it was March 19th. In Switzerland it was February 24th.

In Ontario? Equal Pay Day** comes on April 19th.

This will be the third year that the Ontario provincial government officially recognizes Equal Pay Day, but this year there is cause to be hopeful that change is in the works. Not only has the Ontario provincial government been examining this issue, but the federal government has convened a special committee on pay equity.

To help us better understand gender pay gap dynamics in Ontario, Dr. Kendra Coulter at Brock University conducted a survey of retail workers, an already low wage and feminized sector. Sheetal Rawal, a lawyer and pay equity expert, contributed analysis and context, and I helped out with some numbers. Our whole report can be found on Dr. Coulter’s website, revolutionizingretail.org.

What we found will sound familiar to many who have worked on pay equity issues over the years. Managers are more likely to be men, lower wage occupations within retail are more likely to be women. Men are more likely to be employed full time, whether they are managers or cashiers. Even within retail locations, managers have gendered ideas about skills, expecting women to be better with customers or to be good at cleaning tasks, and expecting men to do more physical labour.

Equal Pay Day is calculated based on the difference in full-time earnings between men and women, but it turns out it is not just about wage equity, but also about “hours equity”.

The women who responded to Dr. Coulter’s survey wanted more hours, but were consistently frustrated with growing precarious work trends in their workplaces. They told us that unpredictable scheduling is the norm rather than the exception, and it is common for employers to hire more casual workers instead of giving current workers more hours. This persistent hours deficit combined with unpredictability takes a toll on workers, especially if they have unpaid work responsibilities as well.

As our report notes, “Workers are often expected to have full-time availability without any of the benefits (financial and otherwise) that come with being employed fulltime.”

Our report makes several recommendations about how the Employment Standards Act can address the gender gap in hours, including:

  • advance notice for work schedules,
  • minimum hours guarantees,
  • requiring that part-time, contract, and temporary workers be paid the same wage as full-time workers doing the same tasks, and
  • paid sick leave.

Provincial consultations on the gender pay gap ended on February 29th, 2016, and a report is expected from the steering committee in May 2016. Then we’ll need to mobilize to make sure the evidence gathered results in concrete changes for women in Ontario, and across Canada. Otherwise, we’ll be waiting another 228 years for the wage gap to close on its own.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

**Your own personal Equal Pay Day may vary significantly, based on a variety of factors. The Labour Force Survey gives us some insight into the pay gap for new Canadians and Aboriginal workers living off reserve.  The CCPA in Ontario have calculated that women who are landed immigrants earn $21,000 less per year than non-immigrant men (39% pay gap), and Aboriginal women earn $31,000 less per year than non-Aboriginal men (57% pay gap). We desperately need better data on the pay gap for racialized workers and workers living with disabilities.

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