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Canada No. 20 in gender equality rankings Canada sits behind Sri Lanka, Lesotho and Latvia, at No. 20, in a global measure of equality between men and women. Nordic countries - Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden - are still on top of the World Economic Forum's gender gap study released today, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.

Canada's position actually improved from last year, when it was 25th, with its chief strengths in educational attainment and economic participation, the report said.

Canada lags when it comes to the earnings gap. The estimated earned income gap puts the country at 33rd in the world for this indicator. The perception of the wage gap for similar work, meantime, places Canada at No. 18. Just over a third - or 36 per cent - of legislators, senior officials and managers and 57 per cent of professional and technical workers positions are occupied by women.

Separately today, Toronto-Dominion Bank released a study showing the earnings wage gap between men and women is tied primarily to motherhood. Women with no children tend to have similar wages to men, all else being equal, while those with children face steeper "wage penalties."

"Absences related to childcare were found to generate a persistent 3-per-cent wage penalty per year of absence," wrote economists Beata Caranci and Pascal Gauthier.

"While this may appear to be pocket change, it is not. As an example, let's take a woman today with $60,000 in after-tax income, who works continuously for another six years - upon which her real (inflation-adjusted) earnings are assumed to have grown by 1 per cent per year to nearly $64,000.

"Then suppose she takes a single three-year stint out of the labour force before returning and working another continuous 20 years."

"Accordingt to the estimates ... and assuming a 55-per-cent income replacement ration in the first year of a child-related absence, this woman would incur a cumulative earnings penalty of over $325,000 in today's dollars."

Guess they didn't get the memo The world is still reeling from the financial crisis and recession, but the place where it all began just over two years ago is doing just fine. Wall Street is set for a record payday for the second year in a row, The Wall Street Journal reports today, or some $144-billion (U.S.) in compensation and benefits for employees of the biggest banks, securities firms, hedge funds and money managers.

That's up 4 per cent from $139-billion last year, a study by the newspaper showed.

Compensation and bonuses have become a flashpoint since the meltdown, and the latest figures will only serve to heighten that, particularly given that the global economy is still struggling to rebound, governments are facing massive bailout-related debts and unemployment remains high.

The Journal said revenue at 29 of the 35 firms studied is projected to climb, though at a slower rate than pay. Wall Street firms are forecast to pay more than 32 per cent of revenue to its employees. That's the same as last year, though below the 36 per cent in 2007. Projected profits for the firms studied this year is $61.3-billion, some 20 per cent shy of the 2006 record of $82-billion.

Currencies still in focus The weekend meeting of the International Monetary Fund has done little to ease concerns over foreign exchange rates.

The controversey over countries managing down their currencies continued unabated today as Thailand took new measures and China retiterated that it would not allow anything but a gradual rise in the yuan.

Thailand's move, noted Scotia Capital economists Derek Holt and Gorica Djeric , follows the weekend IMF meetings "that appeared to accomplish little insofar as the most contentious global issue is concerned, being [foreign exchange]management."

China moves again on bank lending China's major banks have been ordered to again boost their reserves, reports from Beijing say. Chinese authorities are concerned about an overheating housing markets and rising inflation, and, the reports said, have ordered the six biggest state-owned lenders to boost reserves by half a percentage point to 17.5 per cent.

"There were a number of developments in China which point to tighter policy and slower growth ... but not that slow (GDP for Q3 is not expected to be released until next week but a 9.5-per-cent year-olver-year growth rate has been bandied about, down from the 11.9 per cent surge in Q1 but still strong)," said BMO Nesbitt Burns senior economist Jennifer Lee.

"For one, reserve requirements for the nation's largest banks were lifted for the first time since May, with the latest being a 50-basis-point increase to 17.5 per cent, but only temporarily. The increase will only have a two-month window, suggesting that these moves are similar to tapping on, versus slamming, the brakes on loan growth."

Google launches price index Google Inc. plans to give official statistics gathering agencies a run for their money. The Internet search giant is building a "Google Price Index," which will be a daily reading of inflation, The Financial Times reports.

Already notable is the fact that the company's chief economist, Hal Varian, says the new index suggests a deflationary trend for products purchased online in the United States since Christmas.

History backs dividend investors Investors chasing dividends in these uncertain economic times have history on their side, CIBC World Markets says.

Stocks surged in September, senior economist Peter Buchanan said in a research note, adding that "yield is still very much the name of the game though, and it will take more than one good month to reverse investors' recent preference for 'clipping the coupon.'"

More investors have, over the past few months, come to accept that so-called safe havens, such as U.S. Treasuries, are not as attractive as dividend stocks given current low yields.

"Underscoring the shift, investor inflows into dividend and income funds have risen at twice the percentage pace as inflows into equity funds in general, and bond funds this year."

Like other economists, Mr. Buchanan pointed to consumers cutting back, slowing housing markets and greater fiscal concerns that will lead to tepid economic growth of less than 2 per cent in the United States and Canada next year.

"Those betting that dividend stocks will provide a useful portfolio anchor in that sort of environment have history as an ally," he said. "On both sides of the border, dividend-paying issues have fared better over the medium term than those with low or zero payouts. The gap has been the widest in a period of subdued economic performance."

Since 1990, Mr. Buchanan's research showed, "quality" U.S. dividend stocks have outpaced the S&P 500 by more than 9 percentage points, on average and annually, in years of economic growth below 2 per cent. That compared to a deficit of a "modest" 2 percentage points when expansion topped that mark.

The same holds true in Canada generally, he noted. In recent years, dividend stocks outperformed the S&P/TSX composite by about 5 percentage points when growth slowed below 2 per cent, and still outperformed when it topped that pace, though by a slimmer margin of 1 percentage point.

"Although the TSX has yet to regain its pre-Lehman bankruptcy levels, an investor in quality dividend issues back then would be up by well over 10 per cent today, counting distributions."

Mr. Buchanan also noted that analysts are scaling back their earnings projections for next year.

From today's Report on Business

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