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Women's wage increases are not keeping up with inflation: report


Canadian women’s wages grew in February, but not on par with the rising cost of living, according to new data, underscoring the disproportionate impacts faced by women amid the pandemic.

On average, women’s wages grew by 2.2 per cent in February, as the cost of living rose when inflation hit 5.7 per cent, a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found.

The report released Tuesday is part of a multi-year project tracking women’s progress through COVID-19-related disruptions. It found that women in essential occupations such as nursing, child care, and social and community service all experienced income losses after inflation was factored in.

“Although some women have recovered from pandemic labour market disruptions, the recovery so far has been bumpy and uneven — particularly for low-wage and essential workers who are still on an economic roller coaster,” said report author and CCPA Senior Researcher Katherine Scott in a news release.

In an interview with, Scott said that inequalities in wage increases are related to factors such as income background, immigration status and disabilities, and as such, can impact men too.

But, disproportionately low wage increases were found notably in sectors such as the care economy and service sector, which are mostly comprised of women, she said.

“Gender was a really important cross-cutting factor. … The labour market is pretty segregated that way in terms of where women are located, and it happens this time around, unlike previous recessions, where services that were hugely impacted, (led to) women disproportionately experiencing the largest job losses and had the most troubled sort of bouncing back,” she said.

Another major factor, Scott said, was that many women decided to take a step back from work to take care of their children as schools shut down, and often it was low-income workers who had to do this the most.

Women accounted for 60 per cent of job losses in vulnerable sectors between December 2019 and December 2021, including 57 per cent of losses in food and accommodation and 95 per cent of losses in personal services, the CCPA report noted.

Levels of employment are still down by 11 per cent in these sectors compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The new federal Early Learning and Child Care Plan to create a universal and affordable system of child care across the country could be a turning point, the report said.

The deal is promised to result in an average cost of $10 per day for child care by September 2025, but the report noted that “it isn’t clear whether the agreements that have been struck with provincial and territorial governments will deliver improvements for workers.”

The report also found that in a number of high and mid-paying industries, including technology, real estate, professional services, some groups of women are benefiting from current job prospects and income increases. 

But various studies have concluded that even in those fields, women generally make less than men. For example, women executives earned about 56 per cent less on average than their male counterparts, with an ever further pay gap for racialized women, who earned about 32 per cent less than non-visible minority women, according to a Statistics Canada study from 2021.

To increase earnings, more women have left low-wage employment in food and accommodation services and sought out better-paying work elsewhere, including professional services, Scott noted.

“These wage gains have helped to propel some women up the earnings ladder and to narrow the wage gap — from 88.1 per cent to 88.7 per cent between 2019 and 2021,” the study said.

But women still make up the majority of hard-hit fields with minimal wage increases.

Nurses' earnings climbed by 3.5 per cent between the fourth quarter of 2019 and 2021, childcare workers' wages increased by 4.8 per cent, while social and community service employees' pay increased by 1.7 per cent.

“Taking inflation into account, all these workers experienced real income losses,” the study said. Top Stories

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