April 16, 2014 3:14 pm

Equal Pay Day: Ontario’s gender pay gap is growing, says new report

Canadian Press

TORONTO – Women in Ontario are still making less money than men. And what’s worse, the gap isn’t shrinking according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The CCPA’s annual report on the pay gap between men and women in Ontario looked at the most recent data available and found the pay gap between men and women in Ontario actually got worse between 2010 and 2011.

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The gap grew, according to the report from 28 per cent in 2010 to 31.5 per cent in 2011. So for every one dollar a man makes in Ontario, a woman makes approximately 68.5 cents.

“In fact, over the year, women’s earning went down $1400 and men’s earnings went up $200 if you average them out across the province,” report author and chair of the Ontario Equal Pay Coalition, Mary Cornish, said.

The pay gap has a deleterious effect on the earning potential of women across the province.

“Taken over the course of a lifetime, Ontario’s gender pay gap means women would have to work the equivalent of 14 years longer after age 65 to make what men earn on average by age 65,” according to the report.

The report points to several factors which may have contributed to the “downward dip” in the salaries of Ontario’s women including an increase of part-time jobs, more women working for minimum wage and a spike in unemployment for single mothers, among several other factors.

A chart showing the female-to-male average earnings in Ontario.

Statistics Canada

The report offers 10 ways to close the gap and most important among them says Cornish, is actually sitting down with policy makers and getting started.

“At the moment the one that is most important thing for kick starting it, is to actually get everybody together and develop the plan,” Cornish said in an interview Wednesday. “I think we need to have coordinated strategy and monitoring targets and goals.”

Cornish wants a strategy akin to Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy or the province’s strategy to make the province accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.

“We need to get together, get a plan and start figuring out year by year how we’re going to accomplish it,” she said.

A spokesperson for the minister responsible for women’s issues suggested the Wynne government is “committed to addressing the gender wage gap.”

“We have demonstrated commitment to women’s equality by helping women access better jobs through major investments in education, training programs, and through the work of the Pay Equity Commission. The government is also helping workers, including women, by proposing changes to labour legislation and by increasing the minimum wage,” spokesperson Neil Zacharjewicz said in an email statement.

But there are some things the province can do now to get started including following the lead of U.S. President Barack Obama and the European Union by implementing pay transparency laws. Those laws would allow employees know what their colleagues are getting paid.

In fact, the possibility of pay transparency laws in Ontario was brought up at the provincial round table on the pay gap this morning.

And the recent increase to the minimum wage helped as well, Cornish said, though it’s still not good enough.

“It’s still not above the poverty line but that was one of the steps that we had,” she said. “Because the majority of minimum wage workers are women.”

The Ontario government declared Wednesday as Equal Pay Day (another recommendation from last year’s CCPA report) to raise awareness about the earnings gap. The day is supposed to represent how long it would take a woman in Ontario to catch up to what a man earned in the previous year. Last year’s Equal Pay Day would have been April 9.

Cornish said the pay gap should be shrinking faster than it is, especially now that women on average achieve higher levels of education than men.

“If we don’t do anything different and keep on the same track our data shows it will take us 52 years to close this gap,” she said.

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