Employment & Labour

'Serious' pay equity issue must be addressed: Anbar


OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says there are more women in leadership roles in the public sector where pay equity is the law than in the private sector, where similar rules don't apply.

The report from the national statistics office released on International Women's Day says that gender parity existed in the public sector in 2015, when 54 per cent of legislators and senior government managers and officials were women.

The percentage of women in similar positions in the private sector was 25.6 per cent, the report says.

The number of women in the workforce has risen considerably over the past 70 years, jumping rapidly between the 1950s and 1990, but rising at a slower pace since then.

As of 2014, women's labour force participation reached 82 per cent, Statistics Canada says, compared with 91 per cent for men, narrowing a gap that was more than 70 percentage points in the early 1950s.

In 2015, just over half of Canada's women worked in traditionally female occupations: teaching, nursing, social work, clerical positions, or sales and services, compared with 17.1 per cent of men — figures that have changed little over the last 30 years.

Women remain outnumbered in natural and applied science occupations that usually require a university degree.

As a result, women tended to occupy lower-paying jobs and earned less overall than men: Statistics Canada calculated that women earned 87 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Looking across 46 occupation groups, Statistics Canada found that women's wages would rise on average by $2.86 per hour if men and women were paid equally.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto employment lawyer Miriam Anbar says the study reinforces a serious pay equity issue that requires action.

"This is a systemic problem that will need to be addressed by many different parties — it will not be resolved overnight," says Anbar, associate with Rodney Employment Law. "Being aware of it, talking about it and addressing it is the first step. Both employers and female employees need to get creative around this issue and address it head on. The laws are one thing, but changing behaviours and attitudes is the difficult part."

Anbar says government must work with business to achieve a solution.

"While the government may impose laws, it's businesses that will impact the change. The businesses leaders will be the ones to champion this effort."

The Liberals won't move on pay equity legislation until 2018 at the earliest with the federal labour minister Patty Hajdu saying the law is more complicated than it sounds. Hajdu said the government doesn't want to impose burdens on employers.

In the meantime, the government is focusing on skills training for women who go into non-traditional fields, such as the sciences and mining, and helping women who take that route, and subsequently leave because it is inhospitable, Hajdu said.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

- With files from AdvocateDaily.com.

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