Ontario’s Pay Equity Office Unveils a Hidden Inequality: “The Gender Pension Gap”

Toronto, ON – Despite Canada’s robust retirement income system, women are facing an uphill battle in securing financial stability during their golden years. And the situation hasn’t improved much since 1976.

A new ground-breaking research paper, Understanding the Gender Pension Gap in Canada, published by Ontario’s Pay Equity Office with Dr. Elizabeth Shilton, long-time feminist litigator, labour lawyer and pension expert, finds that although Canada’s retirement income system is recognized as one of the strongest in the world, not all Canadians are benefitting equally. While retirement incomes have increased substantially for all Canadians, men have consistently fared better than women and a persistent gender pension gap remains.

“Women receive $0.83 to every $1.00 a man receives in retirement income. That is a 17% gendered pension gap,” notes Kadie Philp, Commissioner and CAO of the Ontario Pay Equity Commission.  “This stark reality isn’t just a number – it’s a concerning trend contributing to a notable gender disparity among older Canadians, particularly women.”

The Gender Pension Gap (GPG) is the difference between retirement income received by men and women. In Canada, this income is calculated from three sources: Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement, Canadian Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan, and private pensions.  In 2020, approximately 200,000 more women than men aged 65+ were living below Canada’s low-income cut-off. Digging deeper, 21% of women aged 75+ had incomes below this threshold — a concerning 51% higher than their male counterparts of similar age. This underscores a deeply entrenched inequality that demands urgent attention.

The report, Understanding the Gender Pension Gap in Canada, looks at what might be behind this stark inequity and found that, among other things, women are more likely than men to earn lower wages and to spend fewer hours in the paid labour market. Both phenomena contribute to the persistent gender earnings gap, which in turn creates savings gaps that ultimately lead to the gender pension gap.

According to Ontario’s Pay Equity Commissioner, Kadie Philp “Gendered differences in income, whether while working or in retirement, have multiple and interrelated causes. This report is a must read for everyone interested in redressing workplace inequities.  It also highlights the need for additional research on the impacts of the gender wage gap on women in all stages of their lives”.

Visit https://payequity.gov.on.ca/what-we-do/ for more information about the Pay Equity Office.

Download our report on Understanding the Gender Pension Gap in Canada.  

Quick Facts from the report:

  • Persistent Gap: A gender pension gap (GPG) exists in Canada and has not narrowed since 1976 when it was 15%. As of 2021, the GPG was 17%, despite women’s increased labour force participation.
  • Size of the Pension Gap: Women receive 83 cents for every dollar men receive in retirement income, with the average retirement income for Canadian women in 2021 at $36,700 and the median at $29,700.
  • Global Ranking: Canada ranks 12th out of 47 countries in the Mercer CFA Institute 2023 Global Pension Index. In 2021, the GPG in Canada was 17% according to Statistics Canada and 21.8% according to the OECD. In comparison, the average GPG across 34 OECD countries was 25.6%, with Estonia the lowest (3.3%) and Japan the highest (47.4%).
  • Disproportionate Impact: In 2020, approximately 200,000 more women aged 65+ lived below Canada’s low-income cut-off than men, with 21% of women aged 75+ having incomes below the cut-off, 51% higher than men of similar age.
  • Factors causing the Gender Pension Gap:
    • Childbearing and child-rearing. Women are more likely than men to exit the labour market (temporarily or permanently) after having children. In 2015, the employment rate of women with children under the age of 6 was 69.5%, yet the employment rate of men with children under the age of 6 was 90.8%, signaling a 21.3% gap. Women’s employment rate increases with the age of their children but never catches up to that of men’s. Women are more likely than men to work part-time due to caregiving responsibilities. In 2021, 24.4% of all Canadian female workers were part-time compared with 13% of all male workers. Women’s most-cited reason for working part-time was caring for children. Available data states that “one quarter of women reported caring for children as their reason for working parttime, compared to 3.3% of men”. Furthermore, women who work part-time may not be eligible to enroll in their workplace pension plan if they work fewer hours than their employer’s threshold.
    • Unpaid domestic labour is still mostly performed by women. In 2017, 89.9% of insured mothers in Canada took maternity/parental leave – at reduced income level – compared with 11.9% of insured fathers/partners.
    • The existing gender wage gap (GWG). Two of the three “pillars” of Canada’s pension system are designed to be tied to earning power. Canada’s gender income gap was 28% (2021) for average annual earnings, and 11% (2020) for average hourly earnings.
    • Historical Bias: Canada’s public pension system was and still is designed for heterosexual couples with a male breadwinner.
  • Canada’s Retirement Income System: The GPG in Canada refers to the disparity in retirement income between men and women, measured across the three pillars of Canada’s retirement income system:
    • Pillar One: Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). OAS/GIS is a social pension, administered by the Government of Canada. An individual must have an income less than $134,626 (as of 2023) to qualify and payment amounts are based on age, marital status and income. Employment history is not a factor in determining eligibility (i.e., payments are not based on contributions). Pillar one is designed to be gender-neutral but favours women given their longer life expectancy compared with men. It indirectly addresses gender biases by providing essential financial support to women, who may have less access to other retirement income sources.
    • Pillar Two: Canada Pension Plan (CPP) / Québec Pension Plan (QPP). CPP/QPP is a mandatory, public contributory pension plan administered by the Government of Canada and Government of Québec, respectively. With CPP, an individual’s pension payout is based on their earnings, their contributions, and the age they decide to start collecting pension. The QPP is funded by contributions made by individuals who work in Québec and their employers. Pillar two embodies traditional gender biases. It is based on earnings and contributions, which historically favour men who have had higher incomes and longer work histories. This perpetuates the gender pension gap as women often earn less over their lifetimes and may have gaps in their employment due to caregiving responsibilities.
    • Pillar Three: Private Retirement Income. Private Retirement Income comes from sources such as workplace pension plans and personal plans (e.g., registered retirement savings plans). They are voluntary, private contributory pension plans. Not all individuals purchase a personal plan and not all employers provide workplace pension plans. In fact, three-quarters of Canadian adults are not covered by workplace pension plans. Pillar three represents gender biases in access to workplace pension plans and personal retirement savings. Women are disproportionately affected by the lack of workplace pension coverage due to factors such as the gender wage gap and part-time employment. Women are also less likely to have personal retirement savings due to lower incomes and fewer opportunities for financial investment.
Ontario’s Pay Equity Office Unveils a Hidden Inequality: “The Gender Pension Gap”2024-05-31T10:34:20-05:00

Gender Wage Gap in Ontario Varies by Municipality

On World Cities Day we reflect on the ways women across Ontario are uniquely impacted by the gender wage gap. The gender wage gap persists in Ontario, no matter how it is measured. The hourly wage gap sits at 13 percent as of 2022, only six percentage points less than 1998; this means that, on an hourly basis, women make 87 cents on average for every dollar made by a man. While the gap persists it varies by sector, sub sector, and even geography.

Last year the BBC published the article Why young women earn more than men in some US cities which considers factors that may contribute to women achieving pay equity or out-earning men in certain US major cities. I was curious if the factors identified in the US applied to cities across Ontario.

From the article we learned that municipalities with higher levels of women with post-secondary education seem to be more likely to have a smaller gender wage gap. Another contributing factor to the wage gap, according to the BBC, is predominance of female-dominated industries. Jurisdictions with a greater number of industries with female-job classes tend to have smaller wage gaps (and vice versa). Average age of motherhood also seems to be a factor: women who are mothers tend to make less, on average, than women without children and US jurisdictions where the average maternal age at first birth is lower tend to have wider gender wage gaps (unfortunately, city-level data is not currently available for maternal age in Ontario, but you can read more about the impact of motherhood and unpaid domestic labour here). In addition to the factors suggested in the above BBC article, we also know that the gender wage gap is often larger for racialized and newcomer women.

When we take these indicators and apply them to Ontario jurisdictions (particularly jurisdictions with notably higher or lower gender wage gaps), we can get a better understanding of how they can contribute to income discrepancies between men and women across the province. Using data from Statistics Canada we analyzed just under 50 municipal jurisdictions across Canada. Of course, the data isn’t perfect, but did provide interesting insights that warrant greater research. Below we’ll share what we learned about 3 Ontario Municipalities, Elliot Lake, Leamington, and Petawawa.

Elliot Lake is a city in Algoma District that was previously a mining town in the 1950s and produced most of the world’s uranium for decades. As most of the mines shut down, the main industries today are cottaging and tourism. With women on average making 92% of what men make, the wage gap is approximately 17% smaller in Elliot Lake than the rest of Ontario.

Almost 90% of people living in Elliot Lake were born in Canada. In addition, only 3% of individuals in Elliot Lake identify as a visible minority – this is 31% less than the percentage of the population that identifies as racialized in Ontario. Approximately 24% more of the population speaks one of Canada’s official languages as their first language when compared to the rest of the Ontario. While they are imperfect indicators, we know that newcomer women face greater barriers in the workforce; therefore, being born in Canada, not being a racialized individual, and speaking one of Canada’s official languages as a first language may contribute to women’s economic success in this jurisdiction.

However, while postsecondary education attainment levels appear to be a determinant of a smaller wage gap, only 41% of men and 50% of women aged 25 to 64 years old have a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree in Elliot Lake. Additionally, only 9% of men and 15% of women aged 25 to 64 years old in Elliot Lake have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Although women still report higher rates of educational attainment than men, the rates of post-secondary education for both men and women are significantly lower in Elliot Lake than the rest of Ontario, which is not aligned with what we might expect.

Looking at another jurisdiction, in Leamington, the gender wage gap is almost 86%, over 10% lower than the rest of Ontario. Leamington is one of Ontario’s southernmost towns and is the second largest municipality in Essex County.

Leamington has significantly lower educational attainment levels than the provincial average for both men and women, which is surprising considering the low gender wage gap. Also surprising is the predominance of male-dominated industries: agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting jobs make up just under 19% of the labour force, and account for 20% of male jobs and 16% of female jobs in the jurisdiction. In comparison, this same industry sector accounts for just over 1% of Ontario’s entire labour force. The second largest industry in Leamington is manufacturing which is also made up of predominantly male job classes, and it makes up almost 18% of the jurisdiction’s labour force.

Fewer women are part of the labour force in Leamington – the participation and employment rates for women are both significantly lower than the rest of Ontario.

Finally we can look briefly at Petawawa, who on the other end of the spectrum has a significantly higher gender wage gap than the rest of Ontario. Petawawa is the largest community in Renfrew County and is known for its access to natural resources and strong military history and involvement. In Petawawa women make 53% of what men make on average, making the wage gap 22% larger than the Ontario average.

Petawawa has a significantly lower number of immigrants than the rest of Ontario (just over 6% of the population identify as immigrants, which is 24% lower than the average in Ontario) and a low percentage of the population identifies as a visible minority (just over 6% for both men and women, approximately 28% lower than the rate in Ontario).

Additionally, a much larger percentage of the population of Petawawa spoke one of Canada’s official languages as a first language, when compared with the Ontario average. While we might expect that a lower number of newcomers and racialized individuals may contribute to a lower wage gap, we also know that this is only one of many factors.

In Petawawa, 59% of the population aged 25 to 64 years old has earned a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree, which is almost 10% lower than the average in greater Ontario. These numbers drop significantly when looking at percentage of the population with a Bachelor’s degree or higher: only 20% of the population of Petawawa has achieved a Bachelor’s degree or higher (almost 17% less than the provincial average) and only 15% of men and almost 27% of women have done the same. The lower levels of university education may be a factor contributing to the larger gender wage gap in Petawawa.

Turning a spotlight on a handful of Ontario jurisdictions can help us understand the factors that may be contributing to rising or falling gender wage gaps. Perhaps surprisingly, many of these factors seem to be in opposition to what we might expect, or they don’t seem to paint the full picture. The examples above remind us that indicators such as education, industry, and immigration status are only a starting point in understanding why the gender wage gap exists, and how we can lessen it. With seventy percent of the gender wage gap remaining unexplained, we need more research on factors that may be contributing to the gender wage gap and we need a commitment to closing these data gaps.

To learn more about factors that may contribute to women’s access to economic and personal security in cities across Ontario (and Canada), read the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s report, The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2019

Gender Wage Gap in Ontario Varies by Municipality2023-10-31T11:30:56-05:00

Introducing the new video series called Significant!

Kadie Ward, Commissioner and CAO of Ontario’s Pay Equity Commission, describes the difference between equal pay and equal pay for work of equal value. She also reflects on how International Equal Pay Day is an opportunity to recognize the progress made and how much more work there is to be done to promote fairness, diversity, and economic empowerment for all individuals regardless of gender.

Click here to view: Significant – Ep. 11 – Equal Pay Day [AD] on Vimeo

Introducing the new video series called Significant!2023-09-19T13:19:51-05:00

Pay equity is good for everyone – let’s make it a reality: Opinion

By Julie Cafley, PhD and Kadie Ward

International Equal Pay Day, recognized by the United Nations and observed on September 18, acknowledges the crucial need for society to address ongoing efforts to achieve equal pay for equal work. This year, it comes on the heels of a blockbuster summer for women’s economic power in show business.

We saw women-centred entertainment drive record-breaking revenue at the box office and on the music charts. Whether it was the Barbie movie, Beyonce’s “Renaissance” tour, or Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour, these most-talked-about women of the summer have all used their platforms to champion pay equity, too.

How does that translate to actual progress for everyday women?

We’ve heard many corporate leaders’ good intentions to address the issue for years. We’ve read the commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion, but things have not substantially changed despite these declarations.

According to Catalyst research, Canadian women face a gender pay gap by every measure.  Among all workers in 2021, women earned 88.7 per cent of what men earned based on average hourly wage rates. For racialized women, the pay gap is even wider. Canadian women of colour made only 59 per cent of what Canadian men earned who did not self-identify as people of colour.

As monetary policymakers look to curb inflation, the research reminds us that unlocking the economic benefits gained through pay equity measures is undeniable.

An often-cited report by McKinsey estimated that by 2026, Canada can potentially add $150 billion to its annual GDP by supporting women’s participation in the workforce. Transparency in salary ranges on job descriptions can shift the responsibility from candidates to organizations, promoting fairness and equality.

Another McKinsey study has documented the effect of including and excluding women in 1,000 organizations across 15 countries since 2015. It showed how gender-diverse and inclusive teams are more likely to innovate, radically helping their companies gain a competitive edge. In addition, companies with gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies without it.

In short, gender equity is good for everyone and the bottom line.

One initiative helping address this imperative is Catalyst’s CEO Champions for Change, where leaders pledge to increase women’s representation in senior leadership and on boards and provide valuable data towards this goal.

Having diverse and representative leadership is essential to drive tangible change in culture. A critical aspect of this is the need to address not only gender but also other intersectional realities such as race, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation. According to the “critical mass theory” by Harvard professor Rosabeth Kanter, a group needs 30 per cent representation to impact culture significantly.

Equity issues should be at the forefront of strategic plans, balanced scorecards, and institutional metrics. A systematic and data-driven approach is needed to drive progress and create a better understanding of leadership selection and why workplace equity still eludes us.

By prioritizing concrete plans to close the wage gap and achieve equal pay, we can create a fair and inclusive society that benefits individuals and boosts the economy. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. Just ask Barbie, Beyonce, and Taylor Swift.

Julie Cafley, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of Catalyst Canada, a global non-profit that advances inclusive workplaces. Kadie Ward is Commissioner & Chief Administrative Officer, Pay Equity Commission of Ontario.

Pay equity is good for everyone – let’s make it a reality: Opinion2023-09-19T13:20:35-05:00

The Gender Wage Gap: Explaining the Unexplained Season Two, Level the Paying Field, Launches April 2023.

In Canada, it’s taken over 20 years to close the gender wage gap by 8%, with 70% of the gap remaining unexplained. While Ontario has had the most advanced pay equity legislation globally for the past 30 years, the gender wage gap persists and from 2016 to 2021 census data, has widened as women’s employment and economic gains are sluggish in a post-COVID labour market.

Building upon the success of season one of the award-winning podcast, Level the Paying Field, season two launches April 25th. Exploring topics related to economics, equity, women, work and wage equity, in this season of Level the Paying Field, the Pay Equity Office (PEO) of Ontario convenes leading experts and renowned researchers to uncover the hidden biases that contribute to unexplained pay gaps.

“Gender bias is pervasive in our society” says Kadie Ward, Commissioner and CAO of the Pay Equity Office. “From who does what work, to parenting, to unpaid care work, we can see gender coded expectations everywhere and these create inequalities generally and in the labour market.”

Through the series, Ontario’s Pay Equity Office seeks to highlight how data and research can seed meaningful conversations around gender inequality and drive change.

“Each of our guests have experience in researching, analysing, creating and adapting policies to help address underlying stereotypes,” says Ward. “We’ve pulled this group of experts together to uncover the invisible drivers of the gender wage gap and, more importantly, shed light on how to confront and eliminate them.”

Join the Pay Equity Office in elevating the equity conversation to make the world a more equitable place for women to work, live and thrive and support closing the gender wage gap.

Watch episodes of Level the Paying Field at www.levelthepayingfield.ca or listen wherever you download your podcasts.

Quick Facts:

  • Level the Paying Field is a six-part video series and podcast series covering topics related to economics, equity, women, work and money and explore the gender wage gap.
  • In 2022 the podcast was recognized with a Gold Quill Award of Merit from the International Assocation of Business Communicators
  • Level the Paying Field ranked in the top 100 podcasts in the Careers category in Canada.
  • The gender wage gap (GWG) is the difference between wages earned by men and wages earned by women. There are different ways to measure the GWG.
  • In Ontario, the GWG calculated on the basis of average hourly wages is 13%. This means that for every $1.00 earned by a male worker, a female worker earns 87 cents. Calculated using average annual salary earnings, the GWG is 25%, or 75 cents on the dollar. The gap is even wider for Indigenous women who earn 61 cents on the dollar, and racialized women who earn 62 cents.
  • Globally, calculated on the basis of average hourly wages, the GWG remains at 18.8%, ranging from 12.6% in low-income countries to 29% in upper middle-income countries.

Also reported in:

Yahoo Finance: The Gender Wage Gap: Explaining the Unexplained Season Two, Level the Paying Field, Launches April 2023 (yahoo.com)

Benzinga: The Gender Wage Gap: Explaining the Unexplained Season Two, Level the Paying Field, Launches April 2023 – Benzinga

Yahoo Finance: The Gender Wage Gap: Explaining the Unexplained Season Two, Level the Paying Field, Launches April 2023 (yahoo.com)

Newswire, FR: L’écart salarial entre les hommes et les femmes : Saison 2 de Équité salariale : Des règles de rémunération équitables! Expliquer l’inexpliqué, débute en avril 2023 (newswire.ca)

Newswire, EN: The Gender Wage Gap: Explaining the Unexplained Season Two, Level the Paying Field, Launches April 2023 (newswire.ca)

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Canadian Insider: The Gender Wage Gap: Explaining the Unexplained Season Two, Level the Paying Field, Launches April 2023 | Canadian Insider

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EPIC EN: Ontario’s Pay Equity Office Released the Second Season of its Award-winning Podcast Series

EPIC FR: Le Bureau de l’équit salariale de l’ontario a lancé la deuxième saison de sa série de balados primée équité salariale

The Gender Wage Gap: Explaining the Unexplained Season Two, Level the Paying Field, Launches April 2023.2023-08-02T12:36:05-05:00

Thanks to the Initiative of the Czech Republic, the Gender Pay Gap Reduction Became a Topic at the UN CSW 2023

The Czech Republic, together with the European Commission and Costa Rica as co-sponsors, organized a side-event at the 67th UN CSW to discuss pay transparency in the context of the digital age. Participants filled the room to its maximum to attend the event entitled “New Opportunities to Reduce the Gender Pay Gap in the Digital Age: the EU Pay Transparency Directive, National Legislation Examples, and Further Good Practices Globally”, which dealt with good practices on the national (and other) levels.

The side event was opened by a presentation of the success of the Czech presidency of the European Council. Towards the end of 2022, a consensus was reached by all trilogue parties on the new pay transparency legislation “DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms”. The new EU law will empower women to enforce the principle of equal pay for equal work through a set of binding measures on pay transparency.

The plenum was also full of representatives of very interesting initiatives to reduce gender pay gap at all levels in many countries around the world. Among the great remarks was another very inspiring good practice came from Ontario, Canada in the presentation by Ms. Kadie Ward, Commissioner and Chief Administrative Officer, Pay Equity Commission of Ontario, and contributor to The Equal Pay International Coalition, ILO. Its specific added-value is based on the history of the legal provision in Ontario, its long-term nature that allows for analyses and measurement of efficiency, and its wealth of collected experience with the value of work systems.

The event was closed by a statement of consensus that a lot of good legislation has been discussed and, while it is extremely important to have strong and sound legal provisions, it all may not be enough to make a real change happen. It has to go hand in hand with education, awareness raising, and understanding the social processes that cause the problem in the first place.

UPDATE March 30, 2023

The Parliament’s plenary showed strong support of the legislation across the board by 427 votes to 79 against and 76 abstentions to adopt the pay transparency directive, including pay structures to compare pay levels will have to be based on gender-neutral criteria and include gender-neutral job evaluation and classification systems. Vacancy notices and job titles will have to be gender neutral and recruitment processes led in a non-discriminatory manner.

Here is further information, in case of your interest: Gender pay gap: Parliament adopts new rules on binding pay-transparency measures | News | European Parliament (europa.eu)

Thanks to the Initiative of the Czech Republic, the Gender Pay Gap Reduction Became a Topic at the UN CSW 20232023-06-19T21:15:44-05:00
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