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What is the Gender Wage Gap?

​​​​​​The gender wage gap is the difference between wages earned by men and wages earned by women. The gap can be measured in various ways, but the most common method is to look at full–time, full year wages. It is also possible to measure the gender wage gap on the basis of hourly wages. Other ways of calculating the gender wage gap include the comparison of annual earnings for both full- and part-time workers and comparing the hourly wages for full- and part-time workers. These methods of calculation will produce different results. Regardless of how it is calculated however, the gender wage gap clearly remains a challenge for many women.

The most recent Statistics Canada data (2011) shows that the gender wage gap in Ontario is 26% for full–time, full–year workers. This means that for every $1.00 earned by a male worker, a female worker earns 74 cents. In 1987, when the Pay Equity Act was passed, the gender wage gap was 36%. The gender wage gap has been narrowing slowly over time. The Pay Equity Office continues its ongoing efforts to monitor and correct the gender wage gap for the female workers of Ontario.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Canada ranks 16th out of the 144 countries tracked. Based on 2017 trends, the overall global gender gap can be closed in 100 years across the 106 countries studied since the inception of the Index (compared to the projection of 83 years in 2016).

Contributing factors to the gender wage gap:

Research shows that the gender wage gap can be affected by several considerations, including when women:

  • choose or need to leave and re-enter the workforce in order to meet family care-giving responsibilities, resulting in a loss of seniority, advancement opportunities and wages or because they are more likely than men to work part-time due to these responsibilities;
  • encounter occupational segregation in historically undervalued and low-paying jobs, such as childcare and clerical work, where female-dominated jobs are valued less even when they involve the same (or greater) skills;
  • were historically considered to have lower levels of education. This is becoming less of a factor as more women graduate from all levels of education, although the gender wage gap exists even for women with higher levels of education;
  • are less likely to work in unionized environments;
  • are often underrepresented in leadership positions;
  • encounter discrimination or 'unconscious bias' in the hiring, promotion and compensation practices of their workplace.

The Pay Equity Act as a Pol​icy Response​

Pay equity compares jobs usually done by women with different jobs usually done by men.  Statisticians estimate that as much as 10 to 15% of the gender wage gap is due to discrimination.

There are many policy options that governments pursue to address the various components of the gender wage gap. In Ontario, the Pay Equity Act addresses that portion of the gender wage gap that is due to the systemic gender discrimination in workplace compensation practices. The Act puts the onus on employers to establish and maintain compensation practices that provide for pay equity by comparing female job classes and male job classes and adjusting the job rates of female job classes so that they are at least equal to the job rates of comparable male job classes based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.

Almost all Canadian provinces and the federal government address gender discrimination in compensation practices. For a summary of the pay equity initiatives in Canada go to: An Overview of Pay Equity in Various Canadian Jurisdictions​​.

The Pay Equity Office is one of several agencies whose work serves to meet Ontario's national and Canada's international commitments to United Nations and International Labour Organization conventions regarding labour and equity standards in the workplace.

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