The Hamilton Spectator

Private sector must address pay gap


The gender and immigratio­n pay gap is narrower in Canada’s public sector, which is good news if we want to reduce income inequality across the country.

However, the same is not true for the private sector, and that should change.

By public sector, we mean jobs in government public administra­tion, protective services, Crown corporatio­ns and publicly funded health and education: Think bureaucrat­s, first responders, teachers and health-care profession­als. And again, it turns out public sector pay compensate­s women and new Canadians more fairly than the private sector, which pays men and top executives way more at the top of the income scale.

To be clear, despite this good news, wage discrimina­tion is alive and well in Canada in 2023.

In 2023, women were paid 8.5 per cent less than men, even after adjusting for variables including age, marital status, education, tenure, job permanence, full/part time, workplace size, industry, occupation, immigratio­n and province.

But the gender wage gap is even bigger in the private sector, where women’s hourly pay is 10 per cent less than men’s. The private sector also paid landed immigrants eight per cent less than Canadian-born workers. This is even after making sure we’re comparing workers with similar educations, age, tenure and so on.

The public sector cuts those discrimina­tory pay gaps in half — women get paid five per cent less than comparable men, and new Canadians get paid five per cent less than Canadian-born workers. This is clearly better, but plenty of work still needs to be done.

How does the public sector manage this more equal pay? It does so in two ways: by bringing up the bottom and constraini­ng the top.

Women get paid a little over four per cent more in the public sector, while men actually get paid less, adjusting for other factors. This is due to the public sector achieving pay equity in the lower middle class, where women are paid the same as similarly qualified men — a rarity in Canada.

However, after other factors are adjusted for, a quarter of the highest-paid workers get more in the private sector, and this is true regardless of gender. This illustrate­s the public sector’s ability to constrain high-end wages for those making more than $100,000 a year.

When it comes to profession­s, senior managers are paid 29 per cent more in the private sector. The extreme pay packages of $15 million a year seen on Bay Street are entirely unheard of in the public sector. Medical profession­als — think dentists, doctors and pharmacist­s — are paid more in the private sector. Cost containmen­t of public Medicare is likely constraini­ng their pay in the public sector.

On the other hand, educators in primary and secondary schools, universiti­es, and colleges are paid more in the public sector. The same goes for social workers and counsellor­s — occupation­s often employing more women.

Capping pay for dentists, doctors and execs — and using this to produce less wage discrimina­tion for equally qualified women and new Canadians — reduces wage inequality in the public sector.

While there is still work to be done to eliminate the gender pay gap, the public sector is further along than the private sector.

The private sector should pay its workers comparable to the public sector. The key is paying people more fairly, as equal pay legislatio­n applies to both public and private employers. It’s about lifting equally qualified women and new Canadians up, while also constraini­ng extreme pay for top executives to create a fairer, far less discrimina­tory pay grid.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada