The issue around gendered pension equity  
The ongoing gender pay gap in Canada disproportionately affects women in society.

Gender disparities exist in many forms around the world and are especially prominent in racialized populations. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, gender disparity is defined as “differences in women’s and men’s access to resources, status and well-being, which usually favour men and are often institutionalised through law, justice and social norms.”

One prominent gender disparity that is perpetuated in many countries is the gender pay gap. Although there has been some progress made to reduce economic inequalities around gender, the gender pay gap continues to exist, even in Western countries. According to Statistics Canada, the gender pay gap in Canada is defined as “the difference between the hourly wage rates of Canadian-born men and women from different groups relative to the hourly wage rate of Canadian-born men.” 

As reported by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the gender pay gap has a disproportionate effect on women who experience many barriers, including low-income women, racialized women, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities. Wage, being a key determinant of one’s economic well-being, is noted to be “symbolic of gender-based discrimination and injustice.” The ongoing issue of gender pay gap strongly influences other economic-related gender gaps, including career advancement opportunities and time allotted to unpaid care and domestic work.

The gender pay gap, both in Canada and globally, presents long-term implications that affect not only women, but societies as a whole. This gender disparity perpetuates other societal issues, such as gendered poverty, where women are more vulnerable to low income than men in Canada. According to a report published by the World Economic Forum in 2021, Canada ranks only 40 out of the listed 156 countries in terms of overall economic participation and opportunity, which only shows that, although we are quite progressive in many aspects of life, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure economic equality for everybody. 

As reported by the Government of Ontario’s Pay Equity Office in 2021, among the provinces in Canada, Quebec had the narrowest gender pension gap at 12 per cent, while Alberta had the widest gap at 22 per cent. Ontario falls at the 18 per cent mark. 

When we talk about gender disparity, it is so important that we also pay attention to lesser-known issues that are not as focused on and navigate certain issues at a smaller scale (starting locally within our community), before expanding beyond that. One issue that is not discussed in depth is how ageism intersects with these gender disparities, particularly the gender pay gap. How do you feel about the increased risk of poverty for older women? 

Since women are already being paid less and are living longer than men on average, they make lower wages, leading to lower contributions made to workplace pension plans. As such, this economic and gendered disparity leads to an increased risk of poverty for older women. 

The Pay Equity Office also noted that women were at an increased risk of living in poverty in old age, with “prevalence increas[ing] with age as 21% of women who are 75 years old and over live with low-income status compared to 13.9% of men in the same age group.” 

The increasing risk of poverty and living below the low-income cut-off line leads to, but isn’t limited to, food insecurity, housing insecurity, and overall poor health outcomes that has been linked to higher rates of mortality. All these outcomes contribute to a lower quality of life, which greatly affects Canada’s economy. 

As the Canadian Women’s Foundation have noted, women tend to be concentrated in underpaid occupations that involve the “5 Cs”: caring, clerical, catering, cashiering, and cleaning. This concentration is strongly reinforced by gender stereotypes, such as women being sensitive, maternal, and emotional. “Many of the women working in these sectors are racialized, immigrant, migrant, and/or undocumented. They are concentrated in the lowest paying and most precarious of caring jobs.” Jobs that were seen as traditional “women’s work” tend to pay less than traditional “men’s work” because it is the expectation of women to do these duties for free. 

Another factor that contributes to the overall pay gap is that more women than men work part-time. More part-time work is due to many reasons, including a “lack of affordable childcare and family leave policies, along with social pressure to carry the bulk of domestic responsibilities.” 

It should be noted that there are other factors that play a role in the gender pay gap, including family needs, gender stereotypes, and discrimination, all of which are even more disproportionate across minority populations. 

According to a data graph titled “Wide gap in pension benefits between men and women,” which was published in March 2020 from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), pension (retirement) payments to women aged 65 years and older were 25 per cent lower, on average, than for men across European OECD countries, which is a significant difference in terms of economic well-being. 

The gender gap in pensions was substantially higher than the gender pay gap at 13 per cent on average in the OECD countries, as reported in 2017. This source attributed the big gap to older women being more likely to work part-time and having longer career breaks, on top of having worked in lower paid jobs. 

When looking at the gender wage gap ranking of countries reported in 2022 by OECD, Canada was ranked as having the eighth worst gender pay gap. However, there are ways in which we can work together to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the gender pay gap. The Canadian Women’s Foundation suggests the following as to how we can do so: “enforc[ing] pay equity legislation across sectors and workplaces, increasing the minimum wage, [and] universal childcare, ongoing audits of compensation and gendered advancement opportunities, prioritization of workplace flexibility, especially for mothers and caregivers, and implementation of pay transparency policies.”

As Mozambican politician and humanitarian Graça Machal once said, “Gender equality is the goal that will help abolish poverty that will create more equal economies, fairer societies, and happier men, women, and children.” 


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