The wage gap between men and women is closing, but it’s still a major pitfall for those Canadians born female.
In Ontario, the gap is 28 per cent between men and women, prompting a demand that Premier Kathleen Wynne address the issue. Equal Pay Day on April 9 was intended to raise awareness that the gap still exists.
“Although it has improved, at this rate, women still have to work an additional 13 years to earn the same pay as men earn by age 65,” Mary Cornish told a reporter.
Cornish is chair of Ontario’s Equal Pay Coalition, which is calling on the provincial government to close the divide.
“A lot of people don’t recognize there is still a gap,” Cornish added.
She’s right. Most Canadian parents expect their child – no matter their race, creed or gender – to be treated equally by society.
But girls are at a disadvantage, even if pay equity says they should receive equal pay for equal work. Girls will grow up to be women, and they are the gender that must pause to deal with pregnancy. Our society – and many families – then suggest that the mother stay home to take care of the child.
That leaves women at a disadvantage in the workplace. Their careers are affected through reduced seniority and when employers don’t give women their own job back when they return after a birth. In Canadian jurisdictions, it’s the norm for employers to provide similar work when a woman returns from maternity leave, which may not always amount to the exact same job.
Those same new mothers are also dealt a blow when employers mete out the basics; companies that cover 100% of wages during maternity leave are few and far between. Canada should start treating pregnancy as a desirable situation – not a break in employment – and provide women with full pay when they are off work to give birth. The additional cost of full pay is negligible for the taxpaying majority when compared to the individual hardship for women who must accept 70 per cent of their pay while away from work.
Day care could also be addressed at the national level if politicians wanted the gender gap narrowed or eliminated. Women with children make 12 per cent less than women with no children, and the former then have to pay for the expense of childcare if they want to work.
We could enact federal laws to deal with the gap, providing the funds so each province could bring in legislation to help with childcare – along with tax codes and deductions that confuse taxpayers. Or we could simply bump up the minimum wage in every province since 60 per cent of Canadians who make the minimum wage are women.
In one stroke, a higher minimum wage could do great things when it comes to closing the gender wage gap. The cost to those of us who make more than minimum wage would be negligible.
What Canadians must ask themselves is if they would be willing to pay 10 cents more for their morning coffee, 25 cents more for a burger at lunch, and a dollar more for a hotel room in order to see the country’s lowest wage earners get a reasonable raise.