Women driving economic growth but getting shortchanged on benefits, says new Oxfam Canada report

October 16, 2016

Addressing the unequal economics of women’s work is fundamental to closing the gap between women and men, and between the rich and the poor, says Shortchanged, a new report published today by Oxfam Canada.

The report – launched to coincide with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and the Government of Canada’s federal pre-budget hearings – shows that despite enjoying higher levels of education and an increased access to the workforce, women continue to face barriers to decent employment and fair wages, and make up the majority of the world’s poor.

At the current trend of progress, the global gender wage gap won’t close until 2133. Young women starting work today would be 135 years old by that time. For example, women workers in Pakistan earn on average 37% less than men per month. In Canada, women are paid less than men in over 90% of jobs tracked by Statistics Canada, and 60% of minimum wage earners in Canada are women.  

Dana Stefov, report co-author and Senior Women’s Rights Policy Advisor at Oxfam Canada, said:

“Women workers may be good for business, but the bottom line is that they are getting shortchanged. Women currently subsidize the economy with labour that is cheap, undervalued and often even free"

"One year into their mandate, the Government of Canada must take immediate steps to make work paid, equal and valued for women here at home, and to stand up for women’s rights worldwide through Canadian aid and foreign policy.

"Women workers may be good for business, but the bottom line is that they are getting shortchanged. Women currently subsidize the economy with labour that is cheap, undervalued and often even free.

"Governments around the world are at a crossroads on economic decision making. Canada is well positioned to take the high road. With a feminist Prime Minister and a government committed to inclusive growth, what other road is there to take?” said Stefov.

Oxfam Canada’s report shows that:

  • In Ontario, a woman would have to work until the age of 79 to make what a man makes by age 65;
  • In Canada women are paid less in 469 of the 500 occupations monitored by Statistics Canada;
  • The average amount of time spent collecting water each week by women across Mozambique, rural Senegal and Eastern Uganda is 15 to 17 hours;
  • There are 53 million domestic workers in the world, representing 7.5 percent of all employed women. Only 20% have access to a work contract and formal protections;
  • When Aboriginal women in Canada receive a university degree their wage gap with non-Aboriginal men actually increases – by 26 to 33%;
  • In Canada, women spend on average 3.9 hours on unpaid care work per day, compared to 2.4 hours for men. Canadian women subsidize the economy with approximately $192 billion dollars of unpaid care work per year; and
  • The total amount of unpaid care work that women do around the world – including cooking, cleaning, caring for children, the sick and elderly – if paid would add up to $10 trillion US dollars per year – a sizable chunk of the world's $74 trillion (US) GDP.

Shortchanged also offers a number of recommendations for how Canada can ensure that work is paid, equal and valued for women, starting with action in the 2017 federal budget. For example:

  • Enact legislation for a Federal minimum wage of $15/hour and introduce proactive pay equity legislation, in particular addressing the greater pay equity gap for racialized, Aboriginal and immigrant women;
  • Sign and ratify the ILO Convention 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers and support the expansion and scope of legislation, policy and schemes to grant domestic workers the same rights as other categories of workers;
  • Promote universal, high quality, affordable child care across Canada by following through on the promise to build a National Framework on Early Learning and Child Care in 2016, including significant annual investments increasing to $2.6 billion by 2019-20; and
  • Allocate 20% of international aid to programs that specifically aim to advance women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and ensure that at least $100 million go directly to women’s rights organizations.

Oxfam Canada campaigners gathered in front of the Department of Finance in Ottawa on Monday, October 17, talking to bureaucrats and the public about the need for  Canada’s next federal budget to make investments that ensure work is paid, equal and valued for women – at home and around the world.

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