Manitoba women earn 71 cents for every dollar men make, report says

A new report suggests there’s a clear gendered pattern of income inequality in Manitoba, and that the province lags behind other regions in legislation to hold employers accountable.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report published Thursday, titled Tired of Waiting: Rectifying Manitoba’s Pay Gap, says women are overrepresented among low- and moderate-income workers, and men are overrepresented among higher-income earners, according to data gathered in 2019 or earlier by Statistics Canada.

“It is pretty bad, I’m not going to sugar-coat it,” said Anna Evans-Boudreau, a University of Manitoba law student and one of the authors of the report, in an interview on Wednesday.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the persistent issue of our pay gap has only gotten worse.”

In Manitoba, that gap was 29 per cent in 2019, based on their average annual wages, with women earning 71 per cent of what men make ($37,500 annually compared to $52,800), the report said, citing Statistics Canada data.

The gap increases when factoring in other forms of discrimination based on race, age and ability, it says.

Racialized and Indigenous women earn 59 cents and 58 cents, respectively, for every dollar a white man earns, according to 2019 data.

Those who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour also experienced more work loss during the pandemic than white workers did because they are overrepresented in front-line fields, Evans-Boudreau said.

Over all industries, women earn on average $2.73 less per hour, or 90 per cent of what men are paid, the report says, but in some industries, that gap is as wide as 77 per cent.

Wide wage gap in agriculture

Women who work in certain fields experienced a wider pay gap than others, according to the 2019 data referenced.

The natural resources, agriculture, and related production occupations category had the largest gap in average annual wages, salaries and commissions, with women in Manitoba earning just 40 per cent of men’s average earnings, according to the Statistics Canada data.

The largest dollar gap was in the education, law, social, community, and government services categories — a $29,100 gap in average annual salaries, and women making just 60 per cent of what men did in those fields on average, according to the report.

Laura Lazo, the chair and co-founder of Manitoba Women in Agriculture and Food, says the pay gap in the agriculture sector isn’t surprising, and is consistent with data she’s gathered over the years.

Still, many people don’t believe there is a pay gap issue in Canada, she said.

When she founded her organization, which advocates for women who work in the industry, “I started talking about the statistics with the people around me and almost always I got pushback. ‘No, it cannot be like that. Where are you getting the data from? I cannot believe that,'” Lazo said.

She believes raising awareness is the first step to addressing the problem.

Legislation needs overhaul: author

Evans-Boudreau says Manitoba’s pay equity legislation needs an overhaul to ensure women, racialized communities and gender diverse people have fair compensation for their work.

The province was the first to enact pay equity law in 1986, but she says it hasn’t been updated in more than three decades and now lags behind other provinces.

For example, Manitoba’s legislation only applies to the public sector in this province, while legislation in Ontario and Quebec applies to both the private and public sectors, Evans-Boudreau said.

Legislation in other also provinces recognizes pay inequity is a systemic issue, while Manitoba’s does not, she said.

“We did start off really promising and very encouraging and [with] a signal that Manitoba did want to take pay equity seriously,” said Evans-Boudreau. “That’s just not as evident now, and we’re seeing that in the pay gap that does exist.”

A golden statue is seen perched on top of a white domed building behind some trees.
The report authors recommend the province update its current legislation on pay equity and employment standards to ensure both the private and public sector have to make wages public. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The report makes a number of recommendations to bring current legislation up to date, including explicitly addressing the ways race, ethnicity, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation can play out in the workforce, as well as discrimination for what’s often considered “traditional” women’s work.

The report also recommends legislating pay transparency by requiring all employers to report wages as a way of discouraging paying some people less.

Evans-Boudreau says current employment standards legislation focuses on equal pay for equal work, rather than the concept of equal pay for work of equal value, or “comparable worth” — an idea that aims to specifically address wage discrimination in women-dominated occupations, her report says.

Improved legislation can have a big impact, the report suggests.

Studies referenced in the report suggest a lower gender wage gap in the public sector can be explained by pay equity legislation, more generous parental leave and higher unionization rates compared to the private sector.

CBC News has requested a comment from Families Minister Rochelle Squires, who oversees the department of the status of women for the province of Manitoba, but had not received a reply by publication time.

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