This story is part of Work in Progress, The Globe's look at the global struggle for gender parity.
A woman working full time in Canada makes 73.5 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to updated Statistics Canada income data produced for The Globe and Mail – a persistent wage gap that continues even though women's educational attainment has surpassed that of men and amid widespread recognition of the issue among Canadians.
Though it has narrowed over the years, Canada's wage gap is still significant, including among the younger, more educated generation, noted Carole Vincent, a Montreal-based economist and consultant, who warns the cost of such inequality goes far beyond a woman's paycheque.
The disparity in men's and women's incomes "is not simply the result of women working fewer hours. Nor is it the result of different levels of education and experience," notes an analysis to be released Monday by Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. "Even when all of these factors are considered, the result remains the same: a wage gap."
While the federal government told The Globe in an e-mailed statement that it is "committed" to addressing the wage gap issue, no plan is on the table yet.
In the meantime, other countries are taking aggressive steps to boost transparency of pay imbalances.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama announced in January new rules that require large companies to report salary data based on race, gender and ethnicity, aiming to identify and crack down on employers that still discriminate. In Britain, companies with more than 250 employees will have to disclose differences in average pay (including bonuses) between their male and female workers in 2018 – and even post their pay gaps on their websites – as part of the government's "equality-boosting measures." In Australia, which has a federal Workplace Gender Equality Agency, larger employers must already report on gender-equality indicators, such as pay gaps.
Canada has the eighth-highest gender wage gap of 34 industrialized countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The World Economic Forum's most recent global gender-gap rankings put Canada in a distant 30th place. (Globally, the WEF figures it will take another 117 years – until 2133 – to reach gender parity in the workplace.)
Many Canadians are aware of the imbalance and believe there is still unequal treatment of women in the workplace. A Nanos Research survey of 1,000 Canadians, conducted exclusively for The Globe ahead of International Women's Day, shows the majority of both men and women don't believe there is equal pay for equal work.
Most also say they wouldn't want to work at a company with gender wage inequality. Two-thirds of respondents say they'd be less likely to apply for a job at an employer where men are paid more than women for the same work.
"Canadians generally feel that men and women do not receive equal rates of pay or treatment in the workplace, and do not receive the same amount of recognition for non-paid household duties," said chairman Nik Nanos.
Still, opinions vary. Men are more apt to agree that men and women are treated equally at work, and that there is equal recognition of household tasks. And eight in 10 women disagreed with the notion that pay is equitable, compared with six in 10 men who disagreed.
One factor explaining the wage gap is that women and men tend to hold different types of jobs, and the occupations in which women work often pay lower wages, Oxfam's report notes. An example cited: truck drivers (97 per cent of whom are male) make a median annual wage of $45,417 working full time, while early childhood educators (97 per cent of whom are female) earn a median annual wage of $25,334.
It notes that wage gaps exist across all sectors and all education levels (women with university degrees earn 10- to 30-per-cent less than their male peers), and that the disparity is even greater for aboriginal, racialized and immigrant women.
The report says women still perform nearly twice as many hours on unpaid household and care work as men, a factor that increases their likelihood of requiring part-time or flexible hours.
Measures of pay ratios differ – but they all point to gaps at the aggregate level. One comparison of all earners shows a ratio of 69 cents in 2013 (the most recent year for which data are available from the Canadian income survey). Another, based on hourly wage rates from the Labour Force Survey last year, shows a ratio of 86 cents. The OECD pegs Canada's gender wage gap at 19.2 per cent for full-time workers.
By province, Newfoundland and Alberta have the biggest gender pay gaps, while Manitoba and Prince Edward Island have the smallest, according to Statistics Canada's income survey.
The data are based on a new income survey, which means long-term comparisons are not possible. The survey has only two years of data, and shows that in 2012, the pay gap was 73.1 cents, a level not statistically different from 2013.
"When women are not paid according to their productivity, are underemployed or are not trained to their full potential, there is an inefficient allocation of resources – some women or men are in the wrong job at the wrong pay – and this represents a productivity loss to the entire economy," Dr. Vincent said.
The persistent gap stems from such factors as the occupations women choose, a "motherhood" penalty and discrimination, she said. The concentration of women in the education and health-care sectors plays a role in explaining these disparities. And while it's illegal to discriminate in the hiring of women, prejudices could still influence corporate practices. Women, even the most educated, often occupy subordinate positions, and they often possess fewer opportunities than men for advancement, she said.
What is also troubling, Dr. Vincent added, is that as the gap narrows, the portion of it that can be explained by "objective factors" (factors other than plain discrimination) is diminishing.
In Canada, women are more likely to live below the poverty line, work part time and hold minimum-wage jobs. Women's participation rate in the labour market, which had steadily climbed in prior decades, has not only stalled but even declined in recent years.
The issue of the gender wage gap is complex, requiring action at both the federal and provincial/territorial levels, Status of Women Canada said in an e-mailed statement. "We also need to explore how employers can respond to some of the key labour market barriers and opportunities that will help to close the wage gap, including more family-friendly workplaces."
The United Nations has criticized Canada's record on women. A UN human rights committee report last July said it is "concerned" about the persistent inequalities between women and men. It cited a wide pay gap, uneven legislation relating to equal pay, and the "failure" to enforce or ensure employment equity in the country's private sector.
The Oxfam study makes several recommendations, among them changing employment insurance rules so that more women (who tend to work fewer hours) are eligible to apply, expanding paternity leave, and conducting more gender-based analysis of economic and social policies.
Retail chain Gap Inc. became the first Fortune 500 company to publicly disclose its pay ratios, in 2014. Its analysis (validated by a third party) found equal pay between men and women, including for its Canadian work force. That has become an annual effort.
"We feel that paying men and women equally is both the right thing, and it's a smart business decision," Dan Briskin, vice-president of human resources, said in an interview from San Francisco.
It has found that workplace policies that are good for women – such as offering flexible work schedules – wind up benefiting everyone, driving engagement and helping in recruitment.
"We have come to the conclusion that what's good for women is good for business."