Gender Wage Gap

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic


The gender wage gap refers to the ratio of female to male wages and is used to measure the income disparity between men and women [1].  The most conservative measure of the gender wage gap is the average hourly wage. The gender income-gap is another measure of gender income disparity and is based on annual earnings of full time workers. However, the gender income gap measure often excludes workers who work part time and/or temporary jobs, whom are often women.

Although women’s increased educational attainment and participation to the labour force have resulted in significant decreases to the gender wage gap over the years, the gender wage gap persists. Canadian females aged 25 to 29 working full time earned 85 cents for each dollar received by their male counterparts [2]. This gap is even greater for older women. Women aged 50 to 54 earned 72 cents per dollar earned by their males of the same age group.

Data from Canada’s 2001 census show that female employees are twice as likely as men to have lower weekly earnings and occupy jobs that pay a low wage [3].  Based on data from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) from 1993 to 2004, the proportion of women in low wage jobs (defined as earning less than $10/hour) was twice that of men [4].

Sex Issues
The gender gap means that more women compared to men are earning low wages [4].Women are therefore more likely to experience poverty-related health problems such as: increased risk of acute and chronic ill health, infectious disease, migraines, mental illness and self-destructive coping behaviours [5, 6]. In Canada, women in the richest tercile live two years longer (83 compared to 81 years) than women in the poorest tercile. A similar income gradient is evident in men’s life expectancy, with men in the lowest tercile having a life expectancy of 75 compared to 78 in the highest tercile [7].
Gender Issues
There are a number of reasons why more women occupy low paying jobs. Women often forego or limit their work to fulfill care-giving duties [8], resulting in women filling positions that are often part-time, not secure, and poorly paid [9].  Also, women’s access to high-paying jobs may be reduced since employers may be resistant to hire women, due to expectations that women may have more frequent career interruptions and absences for family-related reasons.  Frequent career interruptions can also reduce women’s wages by: causing women to have lower levels of job tenure; decreased likelihood of promotion; and receiving lower wages when returning to work for a new employer [10]. As well, women often work in sectors such as health, services, teaching, clerical, and sales, which have traditionally been undervalued and poorly compensated [11].
The gender wage gap is evident across a number of demographic variables.  In 2001, the proportion of low-paid workers with less than a high school education was 39% for women (compared to 19% for men). The gender wage gap is less significant for workers with a university degree, with 8% of women receiving low pay (compared to 5% of men). Data from the (insert name of data source here) in 2005 data show that  women with a bachelor degree earned 89 cents for every dollar earned by men and women with no high school earned 67 cents for ever dollar earned by their male counterparts [2]. More women (36%) compared to men (20%) of recent immigrant status are considered low paid workers. Also a greater proportion of visible minority women (26%) compared to men (17%) are low-paid workers [12]. In general, marginalized women (Aboriginal women, women of colour, immigrant women) face a greater wage gap than the general population.  In 2006, the overall wage gap was 29%; however, compared to the general population of men, racial minority women earned 36% less and Aboriginal women earned 54% less [13].
There is a growing amount of evidence on the gender wage and gender income gaps in Canada, yet evidence shows that a substantial part of the gender wage gap in Canada cannot be fully explained by factors such as educational level and job experience. Increased data collection on self-imposed work-hours restrictions, duration, labour force withdrawals, and frequency of labour force withdrawals is need to help better explain the gender income disparities in Canada [14]. Since women are more likely to be involuntary part-time workers, Statistic Canada’s measure of unemployment may be another useful indicator of women’s wages.
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