Achieve economic equality through a focus on social conditions, colonial legacies, systemic barriers and exclusions, gender income gaps and women’s poverty.
Women account for two-thirds of part-time employees in Canada, and 59% of those working for minimum wage. As a result, women are disproportionately low-income, concentrated in precarious employment, and experience poverty more than men.
Increasing income inequality is a long-term trend, and is magnified for women. The top 20% of earners in Canada – who now earn 40% of income in the country – are the only group to have seen their share of the national income grow since 1990.
MIND THE GAP – YES, WE DO
Women in Canada have yet to achieve equal pay for work of equal value. On average, Canadian women working full-time, year-round earn 72% of what men earn working the same pattern. Systemic barriers and legacies of colonization also impact income. The incomes of Indigenous women working full-time are 26% below those of non-Indigenous men, racialized women earn almost a third less than non-racialized men, and immigrant women 28% less than non-immigrant men. Addressing systemic discrimination is crucial to achieving economic equality for women.
Proactive pay equity laws, unionization and regulation make a difference. In 2010, 55% of employees in the highly unionized and regulated federal public service were women, and women earned 90% of men’s salaries. For public servants under the age of 35, the gender wage gap was only 3.5%. The hourly wage for women working in unionized workplaces is $6.65 higher than for women in non-union employment.
POVERTY FOR WOMEN – PRECARIOUS WORK, LOW WAGES AND CHILDREN
With the highest levels of working mothers in our history, 37% of single mothers have incomes below the poverty line. The progressive Canada Child Benefit, championed by Campaign 2000, is a key opportunity to increase the incomes of women with children, particularly women raising children on social assistance, as long as the provincial and territorial governments do not deduct it from social assistance payments or reduce other means-tested benefits. Low-cost child care is also an effective anti-poverty tool for women raising children.
ECONOMIC EQUALITY & TAX FAIRNESS
Tax policy is an effective tool for addressing income inequality. YWCA Canada supports the work of Canadians for Tax Fairness on tax justice and ending tax avoidance. Given women’s income levels broadly, and how much women benefit from social programs, tax cuts are not gender neutral, but benefit men disproportionately. Maintaining a substantial federal tax base is essential to maintaining program supports and income transfers that close the inequality gap.
Making Women Count, a 2016 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Oxfam Canada, looks at the impact of rising income inequality on women in Canada and globally. Women do not receive equal benefits from the economic growth spurred by their increasing work.