Tuesday, December 21, 1999
StatsCan study casts doubt
on male-female wage gap
Differences ascribed to experience, family commitments
A significant portion of the "gender gap" between the wages of men
and women is due to the fact that men tend to have more work
experience and more responsibilities, a new study from Statistics
The study, titled "The Persistent Gap: New Evidence on the
Canadian Gender Wage Gap," also shows that family commitments
have a large impact on women's wages.
Women who had never been married earned wages nearly identical
to their male counterparts in 1997 -- 96 cents for every dollar
earned by men who had never been married. Married women
earned 77% of what married men earned.
Overall, women earned on average 80 cents for every dollar earned
by men in 1997. Female workers earned an average of $15.10 an
hour, while male workers received $18.80 an hour.
After controlling for such factors as rank and years in the
workforce, however, women's average hourly wage rate was about
84% to 89% of the men's average.
This is a significant difference from previously identified "wage
"The gap has been declining over time," said Marie Drolet, a
research economist in the Business and Labour Markets division of
StatsCan and author of the study. Increasing educational attainment
and growing work experience are helping narrow the divide, she
Improved measurement is also playing a role.
In addition to failing to take into account such factors as work
experience, previous Statistics Canada studies have over-estimated
the gap between men and women's wages by measuring annual
earnings of full-time workers rather than actual wage rates, said Ms.
"Men who work full-time work on average four hours more per
week than women who work full-time," she notes.
Using the annual-earnings based Survey of Consumer Finances,
StatsCan had calculated large gaps ranging from 58.4% in 1967 to
72.5% in 1997. Ms. Drolet's study is based on actual wage rates.
Despite much recent public discussion of "pay inequity," the study
marked the first time Statistics Canada explored two factors that
prove to be significant in predicting wages: cumulative work
experience and job responsibilities.
The study found that 18% of the male-female wage gap reflects the
fact that, "Women generally have less work experience than their
male counterparts, supervise other employees less often and are
involved in administrative decisions less frequently."
In 1997, on average, male workers had 18 years of work
experience compared with 14 years for women. Men also had more
seniority, about 1.3 more years than women. Roughly one in every
three men held a job with supervisory responsibilities, where wages
tend to be higher, compared with one in four women. In addition,
men were more likely than women to participate in administrative
decisions such as budgeting, staffing and deciding work for others.
"Since wages generally increase with work experience and time
spent on the job, the difference between men and women in the
number of years employed full-year, full-time and in time spent with
the current employer explains part of the wage gap," wrote Ms.
Another 30% of the gap was related to characteristics including,
"differences in job tenure and the fact that men are more likely to
graduate from programs leading to high-paying jobs such as
However, the study shows that some kinds of education have a
bigger pay-off for women. These include college level education in
health science and technology, and university studies in educational,
recreational services, humanities and social science fields.
"Women earn more than exactly comparable men in those fields,"
says Ms. Drolet.
Overall, women with a university education earned 85 cents for
every $1 earned by their male counterparts, and women who had
less than a high school diploma earned only 69 cents for every $1
earned by their male counterparts, the study showed.
Despite the refinements in this study, the other half of the overall
wage gap, or 10 cents for every dollar, remains unexplained.
"Despite the long list of factors used in the study, much of the wage
gap still remains a puzzle, leaving at least one-half of the discrepancy
unaccounted for," Ms. Drolet noted.
"If there were no differences in the pay men and women receive for
the same characteristics, females would still earn less than men but
only slightly," she wrote.
Ms. Drolet suspects that not only the cumulative length of work
experience, but the frequency and timing of career interruptions that
are more common to mothers than fathers, would likely explain
more of the wage gap.
The analysis was based on StatsCan's 1997 Survey of Labour and
Income Dynamics. The sample included 28,741 paid workers,
including 13,902 women, aged 18 to 64, who were not
self-employed or enrolled as full-time students.