In­come ‘fairly equal’ be­tween gen­ders

Work­ing women bear­ing more of the bread­win­ning bur­den, 2016 cen­sus shows

The Niagara Falls Review - - BUSINESS - CASSANDRA SZKLARSKI THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Men and women are each mak­ing com­pa­ra­ble con­tri­bu­tions to the fam­ily fi­nances in nearly one-third of all cou­ples, Statis­tics Canada said Wed­nes­day as the lat­est data from the 2016 cen­sus re­vealed new de­tails about how — and which — Cana­di­ans are pay­ing the bills.

Of the 8.2 mil­lion mar­ried or com­mon-law cou­ples in the coun­try last year, 96 per cent of them saw both mem­bers earn at least some in­come in 2015, the most re­cent year for which data was avail­able, the agency re­ported.

And in 32 per cent of cases, both in­comes were “fairly equal,” or within 40 to 60 per cent of each other — a marked im­prove­ment over 1985, when only 20.6 per cent of cou­ples were each mak­ing com­pa­ra­ble salaries.

“Many fac­tors have con­trib­uted to this ad­vance, led by the in­creased labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion of women,” Statis­tics Canada said in a brief on the new data. “Com­bined with a nar­row­ing of the gen­der wage gap, women now con­trib­ute a larger por­tion of the cou­ple’s com­bined in­come.”

Men, how­ever, con­tinue to earn an ap­pre­cia­bly higher in­come in fully half of all op­po­site-sex cou­ples, while women earned the larger share in just 17.3 per cent of cases — a glar­ing dif­fer­ence, although sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than in 1985, when nearly three-quar­ters of the men made more, com­pared with just eight per cent of the women.

The gen­der gap per­sists in same­sex cou­ples, too: Male cou­ples earned a me­dian in­come of $100,707 in 2015, com­pared with $92,857 for fe­male cou­ples.

As she em­barks on a ca­reer in law, a pro­fes­sion long dom­i­nated by men, Jennifer Chan said she ex­pects to work longer than many of her male col­leagues, cit­ing stu­dent debt, the gen­der wage gap and po­ten­tial fam­ily obli­ga­tions, if she de­cides to have chil­dren.

Two years af­ter grad­u­at­ing, much of Chan’s Le­gal Aid salary goes to­wards pay­ing down her stu­dent loans in­stead of build­ing sav­ings. She’s proud to say she’s knocked $30,000 off her out­stand­ing bal­ance “on a com­pletely av­er­age salary.”

Chan, 27, said she could have pur­sued a higher-pay­ing cor­po­rate job, but at the ex­pense of ca­reer sat­is­fac­tion and work-life bal­ance. Still, the de­ci­sion will af­fect her fi­nan­cial goals, she ad­mit­ted.

“I work at Le­gal Aid; it’s not like I’m go­ing to make mil­lions of dol­lars here,” she said, de­scrib­ing the dou­ble whammy of lower pay and heav­ier debt load that can hit new fe­male grad­u­ates es­pe­cially hard.

It will likely mean hold­ing off on buy­ing a home right away — the Toronto hous­ing mar­ket is es­pe­cially ex­pen­sive, she con­ceded — as well as put­ting on hold her plans to max out her RRSP and tax-free sav­ings ac­count.

“It’s pro­long­ing some of the other fi­nan­cial goals that I have ... but ul­ti­mately it was a choice that I made.”

Women in the work­force, es­pe­cially in pro­fes­sions long dom­i­nated by men, will likely earn less over their ca­reer and work later in life to achieve a com­pa­ra­ble level of pen­sion and re­tire­ment sav­ings, said Nora Spinks of the Ottawa-based Vanier Institute of the Fam­ily.

Women, Spinks said, tend to be slightly younger than their male part­ners, are paid less and of­ten choose to leave tem­po­rar­ily in or­der to have and raise chil­dren. Those who get di­vorced later in life of­ten suf­fer an es­pe­cially heavy fi­nan­cial blow.

“The women who are now in their ‘60s were part of the co­hort that lost time in pen­sion-build­ing when their kids were lit­tle, be­cause they of­ten had a year or two with­out ben­e­fits and the like,” said Spinks, not­ing women sim­ply have to work longer to sup­port them­selves.

What’s more, she added, women aren’t guar­an­teed more se­cu­rity or spend­ing power just be­cause they’re gen­er­at­ing more in­come.

DOUG IVES/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Jennifer Chan sits at a desk in her Le­gal Aid of­fice on Mon­day. Chan is just be­gin­ning her law ca­reer. But she ex­pects to work longer than many of her male col­leagues, cit­ing stu­dent debt, a gen­der pay gap and, if she de­cides to have chil­dren, ex­pected fam­ily obli­ga­tions that could de­lay re­tire­ment.

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