Edmonton - As women's workforce participation in Alberta has increased, so too has earnings inequality, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour.
While today's Statistics Canada report on Women and Work showed women's participation in the labour force increased substantially over the past three decades, it also remains true that women who work full-year, full-time earn just 66 per cent of what men earn. The Canadian average earnings gap is 72 per cent.
The Statistics Canada study found that more women than ever are working in finance and business, but the earnings gap in Alberta is astounding, says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Statistics Canada shows dramatic differences in average yearly earnings in various occupations, such as:
• Alberta men in management occupations earned an average of $101,000 in 2008 - for women, the average earnings in management were $55,500;
• Alberta men in business, finance, and administrative occupations earned an average of $68,500 in 2008 - for women, the average earnings in business, finance, and administration were $40,300.
Earnings data are critical to understanding women's advances in the workforce, given that so many women are employed in part-time, precarious, contract, and low-wage work with few benefits or pension. Today's Statistics Canada release showed that 70% of the Canadian part-time workforce is female.
Part of the explanation for so much part-time work lies in Alberta's - and Canada's - dismal early learning and child care policies.
Alberta allocates the lowest number of dollars per child in regulated child care, and has some of the fewest regulated child -care spaces in Canada. On the international scene, Canada scarcely fares better. A recent OECD study found Canada tied with Turkey and Mexico - among the bottom of the entire industrialized world - in spending on family benefits.
The silver lining for women in Canada, during the recession, was the relative stability of public-sector jobs.
"We see a lower earnings gap - and we saw fewer layoffs during the recession - in public-sector jobs in health and education," adds Furlong.
"This is because all Canadian women experience a significant union advantage when they work in the public sector. The union advantage is about more than wages - it is about a better work-life balance, pay equity, and other workplace gains that women have won through unionization," concludes Furlong.
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour - 780-483-3021; cell 780-720-8945