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March 13, 2001

Women still work longer than men for less income

Improved since 1986: 'We've come some way, but we still have a way to go'

Siobhan Roberts
National Post

John Mahoney, The Gazette
Although more women are taking up male-dominated jobs, men have not strayed into areas traditionally populated by women, such as nursing.

Women's work is still only worth about two-thirds of men's work, according to a study by Statistics Canada.

The study found that although the gender gap has decreased since the mid-1980s, women still have an after-tax income only 63% of men's.

In 1986, women earned 52% of that earned by men.

"Sixty-three per cent is not too great," said Hedy Fry, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women.

"I think we've come some way, but we still have a way to go."

Ms. Fry said public policy initiatives -- such as federal tax credits to lower-income families with children and extended parental benefits -- have helped balance incomes.

The study also tracked gender disparities in unpaid work.

The 1997 survey indicated women and men aged 35 to 65 did the same amount of paid work each year, but women did 35 days more of unpaid work -- such as housework and caregiving -- than men. "Now we find that women are doing only 11 days more," said Ms. Fry. "We don't know why that amount has decreased. I don't know if that is because men are helping more. We'd like to think that couples are sharing their workload better."

In the 15 to 24 age group, women were found to do 18% more work than their male counterparts -- even more when unpaid work such as chores are included.

"If you measure the leisure [activities] of men in that age group," said Ms. Fry, "they are playing more formal games.

"The question is, then, if men are spending more time out with leisure and women are spending more time doing unpaid work, what does that mean?"

In total, the study showed Canadian women aged 15 and over spent 7.8 hours per day working at paid or unpaid work while men spent 7.5 hours working.

Warren Clark, the study's author, said yesterday StatsCan also looked at how gender influences career choices.

"We found that women are increasingly going into male-dominated fields such as engineering and physics and some of the sciences," he said.

In 1981, for example, only 15% of jobs in the male-dominated fields were taken up by women. According to the 1998 data, that number has risen to 25%.

"This is not a great gain," said Ms. Fry. "That jump is not significant when you consider women have moved into the neutral fields like law and medicine in a far greater amount, and have in fact overtaken men."

Fifty-five per cent of law students and 54% of medical students are women.

However, men are not moving into female-dominated fields such as nursing. In 1998, women made up 75% of students in those fields, up from 70% in 1981.

"Men are not following them," said Ms. Fry.

"We are not seeing many men going into nursing. The question is, is this because these are traditionally female fields and they have been traditionally lowering paying? And what does that mean for the overall ghettoizing of women remaining in these fields?" she asked.

The survey relied on information from several sources, including census data, university and college enrollments and StatsCan research.


The gender equality index is the ratio of women's average incomes compared with men's. Below 1.0, women earn less than men.

Total income (aged 15 and over):

'86: 0.49

'91: 0.55

'94: 0.56

'97: 0.58

Income after tax (aged 15 and over):

'86: 0.52

'91: 0.59

'94: 0.61

'97: 0.63

Earnings (aged 18-64):

'86: 0.45

'91: 0.52

'94: 0.52

'97: 0.54

- In 1998, Canadian women aged 15 and over worked an average of 7.8 hours a day (paid or unpaid), while men worked an average of 7.5 hours a day.

Source: Statistics Canada

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