rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Canada's pay gap: Who gets paid more?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

The Fraser Institute is really concerned that public sector employees might be making more than private sector employees. What is notable about the recent Fraser Institute report on public and private sector wages in British Columbia is that it does not seem particularly concerned with the reasons why there are variations in public and private sector compensation. The stated concern of the report is that public sector wages, benefits and job security should be more closely tied to private sector wages, benefits and job security.

An analysis of public and private wages based on National Household Survey data finds that wages are higher in the public sector precisely for those groups of people who experience the greatest discrimination in the private sector -- because the public sector goes further in correcting those discriminatory practices. Salaries are lower in the public sector for the groups least likely to experience discrimination on the basis of race and sex.

For example, a university-educated, non-Aboriginal man will earn 8.4 per cent more in the private sector (with an average annual salary of just under $90,000 -- compared to the $83,000 he would earn in the public sector). His university-educated Aboriginal male colleague will earn 52.1 per cent less in the private sector, or just over $32,000 annually (compared to $67,000 in the public sector).

If public sector compensation was made to reflect the private sector, public sector employers would need to lower the wages of women, Aboriginal workers, and visible minority workers and raise the wages of the highest-paid employees. Workers who had accepted a public sector wage penalty because the public sector offered non-wage compensations such as better pensions, would see those benefits shrink or disappear altogether (so much for rewarding rational self interest). Job security in the public sector would rise and fall as the private sector reacted to market volatility and economic shocks (oil prices fall, nurses get laid off).

Governments would also have to spend more money on compensation for the workers at the top end of the scale. A whole lot more. For example, the highest-paid public sector workers see their salaries top out at just under half a million dollars annually. But the top private sector workers receive compensation packages worth 20 times that much in a year. The CEO of Rogers Communications makes a base salary of $1.1 million, has a pension worth $1.9 million and receives additional benefits totalling $23.8 million. Annually.

So what if we tried going in the other direction?

If private sector compensation looked more like public sector compensation, the gender wage gap would narrow, discrimination against Aboriginal and visible minority workers would diminish, and CEOs would take a pay cut. Older workers would be less likely to retire into poverty. Fewer working parents would have to choose between a day's wage and taking time off to look after a sick kid. Unemployment rolls would not double overnight in response to global market shifts.

Both of these alternatives comes with a price. Only one of them seems worth the cost.

Kate McInturff  is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the director of the Centre's initiative on gender equality and public policy, Making Women Count. You can follow Kate on Twitter @katemcinturff.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.