Women hit wage parity with men on P.E.I.

Women on P.E.I. are now earning the same wages as men, according to a new report from Statistics Canada, but it may be a little early to break out the champagne.

The report found that in 2018, employed women aged 25 to 54 earned an average of $24.18 per hour and men earned $24.33. The 15-cent difference is statistically insignificant, the agency said. In 1998 there was a $1.50 difference in wages.

P.E.I. is the only province with wage parity.

Nationally there was a $4.13 difference between men ($31.05/hour) and women ($26.92). The biggest wage gap was in Alberta, where it was $6.32, although most of that difference could be explained by the different jobs men and women were doing.

A different kind of economy

UPEI economist Jim Sentance said wage parity on the Island can be attributed to some unique factors in the provincial economy.

"We have an unusually large public sector, which is female dominated, heavily unionized, and subject to pay equity," Sentance wrote in an email to CBC News.

"There is, I believe, also a spillover effect in that the private sector has to compete with the government pay scale for a number of those white-collar jobs."

In contrast he said, the manufacturing sector is relatively small, and much of it is food processing, where pay is generally lower and a larger percentage of women are typically employed.

Finally, P.E.I. women have a high participation in the labour force.

"Greater attachment to the labour force brings higher wages over the long run," Sentance said.

Poor pay across the board

Jillian Kilfoil, executive director of Women's Network P.E.I., said it is good news that the wage gap has closed, but added there are issues that are not included in the report that need to be considered.

One of the reasons the wage gap has closed, she said, is because wages overall are so low on P.E.I. to begin with.

Peter Scobie/CBC

"We have some of the lowest wages in the country," said Kilfoil.

"More people earn minimum wage in P.E.I. than in many other jurisdictions, and so we may have more parity but we still have lower wages compared to other regions in Canada."

Women have wage parity on the Island, and also with women in other Maritime provinces, but men are earning more on the mainland.

Kilfoil noted that the study also does not consider unpaid labour, such as child care and eldercare, which is more often done by women.

To get a full picture of gender pay equity, she said, society needs to also consider what work is being paid for, and what isn't.

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