Canada’s (and Alberta’s) gender wage gap during the pandemic

Female part-time workers in Canada made more than their male counterparts over the last year. It was the reverse for full-time workers.

You’ve probably heard about the wage gap: the claim that women are paid less than men for the same work. (You can see more about the topic at this Wikipedia article.

You might also be familiar with criticisms of the claim, such as this classic clip from right-wing icon Jordan Peterson:

I was recently curious how the gender wage gap manifests itself in Canada, so I decided do dive through employment data published by Statistics Canada for May 2021, and here’s what I found.

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First, here’s what part-time wages look like since May 2020.

Interestingly, we see that female part-time workers actually made more per hour overall than male workers, at least during the pandemic.

What’s interesting, however, is that when we break it down by sector, it tells a more complex story.

Even though female part-time workers 15 years and older made more than their male counterparts—$21.76 an hour compared to $20.17—they made more than their make counterparts in only 5 of the 16 sectors that reported wages last month.

In the other 11 sectors, male workers were more likely to make more. Here is the wage gap by sector:

Higher wages for male workers

Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas$16.21
Transportation and warehousing$2.50
Public administration$2.26
Educational services$1.95
Other services (except public administration)$1.47
Professional, scientific and technical services$1.45
Accommodation and food services$0.22
Health care and social assistance$0.04
Hourly wage differential

Higher wages for female workers

Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing$8.00
Information, culture and recreation$1.11
Business, building and other support services$1.09
Wholesale and retail trade$0.27
Hourly wage differential

The sector with the largest wage gap favouring male workers (Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas) had a wage gap more than twice as large as the sector with the largest wage gap favouring female workers (Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing).

What about full-time workers?

No, it seems as though the tables have turned, with male full-time workers 15 years and older outearning their female coworkers. At least during the pandemic, and regarding overall wages in Canada.

Here’s how the wage gap breaks down by sector:

This time, every sector shows the wage gap favouring male workers 15 years old and older. Female workers don’t see an advantage in even just one sector.

I find it interesting that female workers get a wage advantage over male workers only when they work part-time, but even then it’s in only 5 out of 16 sectors.

And here’s the actual full-time wage gap per sector:

Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing$8.61
Professional, scientific and technical services$6.41
Wholesale and retail trade$3.68
Information, culture and recreation$3.61
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas$3.49
Public administration$3.34
Transportation and warehousing$2.68
Health care and social assistance$2.58
Educational services$2.21
Other services (except public administration)$1.89
Accommodation and food services$0.80
Business, building and other support services$0.60
Hourly wage differential

Now let’s compare the hourly wage differentials that favour female part-time workers with those that favour male full-time workers:

Female P/TMale F/T
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, leasing$8.00$8.61
Information, culture and recreation$1.11$3.61
Business, building and other support services$1.09$0.60
Wholesale and retail trade$0.27$3.68
Hourly wage differential

In all but one of them, not only do male wages completely erase the gap that favoured women when working full-time, but in all but 1 of those sectors, the gap for male full-time workers is greater than that experienced by female part-time workers.

And while I was going through the national data, I thought I’d check out what Statistics Canada had for Alberta.

As with their national counterparts, Alberta female part-time workers 15 years old and older had higher hourly wages than their male coworkers did.

However, the wage gap between the average hourly wage for female part-time workers in Alberta between May 2020 and May 2021 and male part-time workers was $2.21 an hour. Nationally, that wage gap was $1.15.

Here’s how the part-time wage gap breaks down by sector:

Unlike the national data, the Alberta data shows that female part-time workers outearn male co-workers in most industries.

Now, keep in mind that the provincial data lacked hourly data for female part-time wages in the agriculture sector and the forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil, and gas sector, for male part-time wages in the manufacturing and public administration sectors, and for both in the utilities sector. So,I couldn’t compare those 5 sectors.

Even so, here are the 6 sectors where female part-time workers were better paid.

Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing$7.98
Educational services$6.37
Transportation and warehousing$5.23
Health care and social assistance$2.19
Information, culture and recreation$1.25
Wholesale and retail trade$0.04
Hourly wage differential

And the 5 sectors where male workers were better paid:

Other services (except public administration)$6.09
Professional, scientific and technical services$2.85
Business, building and other support services$1.00
Accommodation and food services$0.75

Now, let’s do full-time workers in Alberta.

And surprise! The wage gap favours male full-time workers, just like the federal data.

When we compare the average hourly wages over the last 12 months between male full-time workers and their female coworkers, we find a wage gap of $4.07. The federal average gap each month was $3.05, favouring male workers.

And the breakdown by sector.

It seems that over the last year, there were only 2 sectors where female full-time workers 15 years old and older had a higher wage than the male workers in their sector: in business, building, and other support services, as well as educational services.

Here are the wage gaps per sector:

Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing$9.58
Professional, scientific and technical services$6.03
Wholesale and retail trade$5.71
Health care and social assistance$3.73
Other services (except public administration)$2.74
Information, culture and recreation$2.07
Accommodation and food services$1.85
Transportation and warehousing$1.62
Public administration$1.06
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas$1.01

Remember, these are hourly rates. So male workers in the finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing sector, for example, are being paid nearly $10 an hour more than female workers in the same sector.

For reference, the wage gaps favouring female full-time workers in Alberta were 63¢ an hour in the business, building and other support services sector and 9¢ an hour in the educational services sector.

Finally, I compared the average wage gap for all 10 provinces over the last 12 months, and this is what it looks like.

It turns out that Alberta had the second highest wage gap in Canada ($4.14 an hour), coming just behind British Columbia ($4.41). The third highest was Saskatchewan, at $4.14 an hour.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

2 replies on “Canada’s (and Alberta’s) gender wage gap during the pandemic”

Clear, concise data here. Better information on one web page than you’d get in a rambling academic piece. Kudos to Kim.

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