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In Canada and Around the World, “Women are Unpaid, Undervalued and Unequal”: Report

As we celebrate the 2016 International Women’s Day, a new report says women now play a defining role in the the global economy but still receive “unequal benefits.”

The report, Making Women Count, The Unequal Economics of Women’s Work, co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and Oxfam Canada, examined how rising inequality impacts women in Canada and around the world.

“Women make up some of the poorest and lowest paid workers in the global economy,” said Brittany Lambert, a policy specialist with Oxfam Canada and the report’s co-author. “Women are doing more and more work to grow countries’ economies without seeing equal benefits.”

The report found that the work in predominantly female fields is undervalued. Certain “unspoken social norms” see men grabbing higher wages and rates of promotion than women. The result is a “global inequality crisis” that has reached new extremes.

According to the report’s executive summary:

In 2015, the 62 richest people on the planet had the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity (3.6 billion people). The richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. In Canada, the top 1% of the population owns a quarter of the country’s wealth.

The gender bias and discrimination in the Canadian economy is troubling. Women are better educated than men. Now, consider these statistics from the Making Women Count report:

  • 2 of Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs are women.
  • 37% of single mothers in Canada live in poverty.
  • 72¢ is what a full-time female employee makes for every dollar a man earns.
  • 59% of minimum wage earners in Canada are women.

“Social inequality has become a perverse benefit in our upside down world – where the fact that women are paid less than men is good for profits,” said Kate McInturff, a senior researcher at the CCPA and the report’s co-author. “It’s clear from our research that global economic growth is not leading to gender equality.”

According to a CCPA news release, the report’s findings are:

  • Women continue to bear the burden of unpaid work. In low and middle-income countries, women spend three times as many hours as men on unpaid care work each day. The situation in Canada is only slightly better, with women performing nearly twice as many hours of unpaid work each day as do men.
  • In spite of high levels of education among girls and women, the wage gap in Canada is getting bigger, not smaller. In 2009, women earned 74.4% of what men earned, in 2011 it was 72%. The gap is worse for marginalized women, including Aboriginal and racialized women.
  • The industries women find themselves working in are undervalued. For example, in Canada, truck drivers – the majority of whom are men – are paid an average of $45,417 per year, while Early Childhood Educators – the majority of whom are women – are paid $25,252 per year.

The Making Women Count report calls the leveling of the playing field for men and women. For Canada, it suggests these “transformative actions”:

  • Ensure that tax and social safety net policies recognize unequal gender roles and work to fundamentally transform them, not entrench them.
  • Promote financing of public services to reduce women’s unpaid care work and expand their job opportunities.
  • Protect workers by ensuring access to decent and safe employment opportunities, non-discrimination in the workplace, and women’s right to organize.
  • Promote women’s rights and leadership to tackle the root causes of women’s economic inequality.

“In a world where so many women are still left behind, addressing the unequal economics of women’s work will have a transformative impact on our economy,” said McInturff.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad

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