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Ontario Equal Pay Day 2015: Time to close the pay gap

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Photo: Mike Licht/flickr

For the second year, the Ontario government officially recognizes Equal Pay Day -- this year on April 20 -- a day dedicated to shining a light on the persistent problem of pay inequities experienced by women in the province.

We normally look at the Ontario gender pay gap, but Statistics Canada has discontinued its annual Survey of Labour Income Data (SLID) and the new replacement means we can't compare to previous years.

What to do?

The new 2012 Canadian Income Survey (CIS) has some limitations, but it can contribute a new dimension to our understanding of Ontario's gender pay gap by showing what the pay gap looks like in Ottawa-Gatineau, Oshawa, Toronto, Hamilton, St. Catharines-Niagara, Kitchen-Cambridge, Waterloo, London, and Windsor. (Note: we'd love to report on more communities but that data isn't available through Statistics Canada).

The following table gives a snapshot of the male/female pay ratio (average annual earnings) by select CMAs (Census Metropolitan Areas) in 2012.

In 2012, Oshawa registered the lowest gender pay gap among those Ontario communities studied: women in that community earn 75 cents on average for every dollar a man earns. Oshawa's pay gap is still 25 per cent for all earners.

Ottawa-Gatineau registered the second lowest gender pay gap: women make on average 74 cents to every male dollar, amounting to a 26 per cent pay gap.

In Ontario's biggest city, Toronto, women make on average 72 cents for every dollar a man makes, resulting in a 28 per cent pay gap. That puts Toronto in third spot for the lowest gender pay gap, tied with St. Catharines-Niagara.

London clocks in at fourth spot, with a 33 per cent pay gap (women make on average 67 cents for every man's dollar).

Hamilton lands in fifth spot, with a 36 per cent pay gap (women make on average 64 cents for every man's dollar).

Waterloo region is celebrated for its high technology hub, but women in Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo make only 61 cents for every man's dollar, yielding a 39 per cent pay gap.

Windsor, which has been hard hit by a long-term manufacturing decline, comes in last spot: it has the highest gender pay gap among all of the Ontario communities in this study. Women make on average 60 per cent of a man's dollar in Windsor -- that's a 40 per cent gender pay gap.

Where do women earn the most and the least, on average?

Women earn, on average, the most money in Ottawa-Gatineau at $44,800 (men there earn $60,300 on average, for a pay gap of $15,500). The lowest average earnings for all women earners: St. Catharines-Niagara region ($27,500). Men there earn $38,400 on average, for a pay gap of $10,900.

Where does Toronto place? Toronto women's average earnings are $37,500 compared to the men's average of $52,200, for a pay gap of $14,700.

How does this compare to the Ontario average?

Using CIS 2012 data, Ontario's pay gap comes in at 29.2 per cent, with men earning on average annually $48,500 and women earning $34,500 -- a difference of $14,000. Using the SLID 2011 data, the pay gap we reported last year was 31.5 per cent. Statistics Canada has warned against comparing the two years, as the surveys use different methodologies. The decrease in the gap may therefore represent a difference in the data used rather than an improvement in women's earnings.

What can we do with this information?

Carrying out an election promise to the Equal Pay Coalition, in September 2014 Premier Kathleen Wynne directed her Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues to develop a wage gap strategy that "will close the gap" between men and women in the context of the 21st-century economy.

The premier mandated the Minister Responsible for Women's Issues to collaborate with colleagues across government to "ensure that a gender lens is brought to government strategies, policies and programs." Unfortunately nothing has happened yet to put that gender lens in action.

The Minister of Labour is just now appointing a Gender Wage Gap Review panel to conduct province-wide consultations to identify the necessary plans to close the pay gap, but no strategies have yet been announced.

A year ago, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives outlined an action plan to close the gap. It's a road map worth heeding.

Given the extent of the gender pay gap that women face, the province would be wise to prioritize this issue as one of its key policy objectives -- bringing gender equality to Ontario's economy.

Finally, regional disparities indicate the province would do well to create not only a province-wide strategy to close the gap, but also to work with municipalities and stakeholders to kick start regional plans too.

Note: This analysis was prepared using Statistics Canada custom data runs designed and analyzed by statistician Richard Shillington, principal, Tristat Resources (shillington.ca) in preparation for a bigger study of women, pay, and where they sit on Ontario's income spectrum.

Mary Cornish is a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Research Associate and an internationally recognized legal expert in human rights and pay equity legislation.

Photo: Mike Licht/flickr

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