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While it may seem hard to believe, women are still worse off financially than men, according to the most recent report by the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW).
The CASW report Comparing Women’s Income in 2000 and 2005: Improvements and Disappointments (2009), compares data analyzed in 2001 with most recent 2006 census data. As the title of the report suggests, while there are some improvements, there continue to be many disappointments in efforts to address the income disparity experienced by women.
On the positive side, women’s income, on average, has risen over the five-year cycle, and fewer women fall below the Low Income Cutoffs of Statistics Canada. On the down side, the ratio of women’s income to that of men remains relatively stagnant, and women continue to have disproportionately low income relative to men. In addition, visible minority women are poorer than the majority of women.
Since beginning its series of reports on the poverty on women in 2003, CASW has lobbied for policy changes such as indexing OAS and GIS to wages rather than prices, expanding federal government funding for a national licensed child-care program, and expanding employment insurance – all of which would greatly improve the economic situation of women in Canada.
Following is the Executive Summary of the report. For more information, please visit www.casw-acts.ca.
Comparing Women’s Income in 2000 and 2005: Improvements and Disappointments (2009)
- CASW initially reported on women’s income based on the 2001 census. This report provides a comparison with 2001 based on the 2006 census and related data. Income is based on reported income from the years prior to the census (2000 and 2005).
- There are improvements and disappointments over the five-year period.
- One improvement is that women’s income on average increased from 2000 to 2005 adjusted for the cost of living.
- The ratio of women’s income to that of men, on the other hand, remained relatively stagnant.
- Visible minority women have lower incomes than the majority of Canadian women. Unlike the majority of other women, visible minority women saw no improvement in median income.
- The median income of African Canadian women in 2005 was slightly lower than the median for all women.
- Women in Alberta had the highest median income in 2005, followed by those in Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Quebec. Women in the Atlantic region had the lowest.
- Women receive less market and government transfer income than men, with two exceptions: Old Age Security and Social Assistance.
- There has been a slight improvement in the ratio of women’s earnings relative to those of men, primarily due to a reduction in men’s earnings.
- Not surprisingly, a larger percentage of women than men have earnings below $20,000 whereas the converse is true for earnings above $45,000.
- The number and percentage of women with low income after tax in 2005 were lower than in 2000. However, the number of low-income women in 2005 was still too high, at 1,772,000.
- Female lone parents, unattached elderly women, and unattached women under 65 continue to have disproportionately low income relative to men in these categories. There is less difference between men and women in families.
- The depth of low income, measured by the gap between the Low Income Cutoff and the average income of those on low income, worsened for families in 2005. It improved for unattached elderly individuals as well as for unattached non-elderly individuals.
- Lone parents, visible minorities, and unattached individuals are more likely to persist in low income over a long period of time than those in families.
- The persistence of low income is marginally higher for women than men.
- CASW proposes a two-pronged policy approach to improve women’s income and income inequality. The first is human capital development. Most income, including low income, is obtained through the market. Policies that enhance women’s education, employment training, employment experience, and child care options are likely to increase income and reduce high rates of low income.
- The second approach is through improved social transfers. Based on the experience of some European countries, it would seem that strategies that reform pensions with women in mind, integrate tax and program expenditures in a progressive manner, provide flexible income benefits, and address gender inequities in the labour market also foster women’s equality.