Income ‘fairly equal’ between genders
Working women bearing more of the breadwinning burden, 2016 census shows
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 same-sex 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 worklife 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.
Jennifer Chan at 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.