Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Submission to the Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee

Submission to the Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee

Canada has international human rights obligations to address the gender wage gap under the Convention Concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women for Work of Equal Value and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Although these Conventions were ratified by Canada in 1972 and 1981 respectively, Canada is moving in the wrong direction on this imperative for human rights. Since the Ministry of Labour released the gender wage gap background paper in October 2015, Canada's ranking in the Global Gender Gap Index has worsened falling from 19th of 142 countries in 2014 to 30th of 145 countries in 2015. In 2015, Canada lags behind all of the Nordic countries, Germany (11th), United Kingdom (18th), and the United States (28th) among others when the overall gender gap is compared internationally.

In 2010, using the average annual earnings of Ontario men and women, the gender pay gap was 28 per cent or, on average, women made 72 cents for every dollar made by men. In 2011, the gender pay gap in Ontario grew to 31.5 per cent-on average, women made 68.5 cents for every dollar made by men. The average annual earnings for men in Ontario increased by $200-from $48,800 in 2010 to $49,000 in 2011, while women's average earnings decreased by $1,400--from $35,000 in 2010 to $33,600 in 2011. In countries around the world, Equal Pay Day is marked to reflect the extra time it takes a woman to earn as much as a man. To reflect the data from 2010 to 2011 in calendar terms, Ontario's Equal Pay Day landed on April 9, 2013 but the following year it took a week later, until April 16, 2014, for the equal pay mark to be achieved. Equal Pay Day 2015 was marked by the government of Ontario on April 20, 2015.

It is fitting that Premier Wynne identified the development of a wage gap strategy as a priority for the Minister of Labour and the Minister Responsible for Women's Issues leading to the current consultation process.

In a globalized economy where precarious employment, including part-time work, is increasing at a faster rate than full-time work, women are the most disadvantaged as they are over-represented. In Ontario in 2013, 65.8 per cent of part-time workers were women compared with 34.2 per cent of men, while 43.8 per cent of full-time workers were women, compared to 56.2 per cent of men. With women accounting for 58.3 per cent of minimum wage workers in Ontario, they are also more likely than men to work a minimum wage job. Precarious employment is now the "new normal" with insecure work increasing by 50 per cent in the last two decades with corresponding negative health and social impacts. Characterized by uncertainty, low income, lack of control, and limited access to regulatory protections, precarious employment is shaped by type of employment, employment status, social context and social location.

Not only is poverty gendered, but intersecting factors often associated with discrimination increase vulnerability to wage gaps. The median income of Aboriginal women is 17 per cent less than that of non-Aboriginal women, 25 per cent less than that of Aboriginal men, and 40 per cent behind the earnings of non-Aboriginal men. First-generation racialized male immigrants make 68.7 cents for every dollar that non-racialized male immigrants make while racialized women immigrants make 48.7 cents for every dollar that non-racialized male immigrants make. Second generation Canadians with similar education and age still experience colour-coded and gendered wage gaps. In this cohort, the gap narrows but persists-racialized men earn 75.6 cents for every dollar earned by non-racialized men and racialized women earn 56.5 cents per dollar of what non-racialized men earn. Women with disabilities earn 75 per cent of what women without disabilities earn.

Characteristics possibly associated with a smaller gender wage gap include union membership, public sector employment, full-time employment, and pay transparency. Between 1997 and 2014 the gender wage gap (average hourly wages) declined from 20.6 per cent to 16.4 per cent for non-unionized employees. In contrast, unionized employees started with a smaller gender wage gap in 1997 at 9.8 per cent and declined to 4.6 per cent in 2014. The unionized wage premium is 28.2 per cent, or $6.43 per hour in Ontario. Higher rates of unionization in the public sector (70 per cent, compared to 15 per cent in the private sector), greater pay equity enforcement, and transparent pay contribute to a smaller gender wage gap in the public sector. A slowly increasing share of women's full-time employment from 38 per cent in 1987 to 44 per cent in 2014 is noteworthy as "higher wages are generally found in full-time employment." Consistent with pay transparency being more common in public, unionized employment, there is some evidence to suggest that "pay transparency in unionized environments reduces the gender wage gap."

RNAO Recommendations to the Provincial Government to Bridge the Gender Wage Equity Gap

  • Address urgent salary and benefits inequities between primary care NPs and NPs in acute care hospitals and CCACs.
  • Equalize remuneration and working conditions for RNs working in public health, primary care, hospital care, home care, rehabilitation, complex, and long-term care as well as those working in correctional settings.
  • Stop replacing RNs with less qualified providers in order to balance budgets in hospitals and other settings. Instead, invest in models of nursing care delivery that reflect the best evidence to optimize person, staff, and organizational outcomes.
  • Achieve the government’s commitment of 70 per cent full-time employment status of RNs and NPs across all health sectors to ensure continuity of care and care provider.
  • Advocate for a national, regulated, not-for-profit child care program that includes 24/7 access to accommodate 24/7 nursing as well as the needs of other female workers.
  • Support the Equal Pay Coalition's twelve action steps to close the gender gap by 2025:
    • Treat closing the gap as a human rights priority
    • Raise awareness through annual Equal Pays and education
    • Develop a "Close the Gender Pay Gap by 2025 Plan"
    • Enforce and expand pay equity laws
    • Implement employment equity laws and policies
    • Promote access to collective bargaining
    • Increase the minimum wage
    • Provide affordable and accessible child care
    • Mainstream equity compliance into government laws and policies
    • Mainstream equity compliance into workplaces and businesses
    • End violence and harassment of women
    • Secure decent work for women across the economic spectrum
  • Continue to advance health outcomes and decrease health inequities by advancing cross-ministerial and cross-sectoral action on the social determinants of health. Recently issued pertinent RNAO submissions with evidence, rationale, and recommendations include:
    • Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynne: Federal and Provincial Investment in Affordable Housing for Better Health
    • Response to the Changing Workplaces Review: Submission to the Ministry of Labour
    • Input on Long-Term Affordable Housing Update
    • Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment for a Healthier Ontario: Written Submission to the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment
    • Pre-Budget Submission 2015-Moving Forward on Deficits: Social, Health, Environmental and Infrastructure
    • Open Letter to Premier Wynne from Ontario's Nurses: Raise the Minimum Wage to $14 per hour

    Download the full submission with references below.

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