• By: Candice Vetter

Women, Wages & The Workplace

The year is 2015. Do women still make less money than men? Generally, yes, although the discrepancies are no longer the huge yawning gaps of the 1960s.

A recent paper by Richard Shillington of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has analyzed public sector v. private sector wages. Shillington found some interesting patterns. It is in the low end of public sector wages that the gap between public and private is most apparent, which result in a reduced gender gap in public employment.

He says that in the public service women generally make about 10 per cent less than their male colleagues. In the private sector, however, the gap is about 13.5 per cent. These percentages are based at looking at overall wages and do not include benefits. The difference in female wages is partly caused by the larger number of women in financially low-end jobs. His paper suggests that the 3.5 per cent difference between public and private is due to better wages for entry positions and those requiring fewer qualifications where women are over represented in both the public and private sectors.

“The overall public sector wage premium is due to three factors: a smaller wage gap for women in the public sector, fewer low-wage positions in the public sector, and a higher effective minimum wage in the public sector.” (Effective minimum wage refers to industry standards used in 2011, which was about $15 per hour for public servants compared to the legislated $10.25 per hour in private industry.)

Shillington cautions, however, that there were limitations to using the Labour Force Survey for his analysis, as sample sizes limit the occupational categories available in published data. He states long-form census data (which is no longer collected) would have provided greater detail and more reliability.

However, it seems reasonable to conclude that the barriers of education and experience are still more significant and more difficult to overcome for women than they are for men. His paper does not address why, but there are many societal factors which play havoc with a woman’s earning power, including, of course, family commitments.

In this series we will attempt to unravel some of those issues affecting women, wages and work.