Pay equity matters not only during a crisis, but year-round

Now is the time for genuine action and follow-through, not simply rhetoric.

Ottawa (31 March 2020) — The present crisis is exposing (and, in some cases, exacerbating) the cracks in our systems, including persistent gender inequity. One way that gender inequity manifests — not only during a crisis, but year-round—is pay inequity.

To mark Equal Pay Day this year, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) will release a new on pay equity.

Why are we still talking about pay equity?

Despite hard-fought progress, we simply have not achieved gender equity. One symptom is persistent pay inequity—also known as wage inequality, or the gender pay gap.

This means that, on average, women still earn less than their male counterparts.

In fact, there are multiple pay gaps

Canada’s gender pay gap is one of the largest among OECD countries. While the specific figure varies depending on how you calculate it, the gap is clear. In 2017, on average, women earned between 69¢ and 89¢ for every $1 that men earn.

The figures we often see represent an average—all women compared to all men—but the reality is more complex.

The pay gap is wider for racialized women, immigrant and migrant women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and LGBTQI2S people.

Why do some people earn less?

Gender bias leads to the devaluing of the work done by women and gender diverse people's work.

1. Outright discrimination: They may be paid less than men for doing the same job. They are less likely to receive raises or promotions or to be in leadership positions.

2. Occupational segregation: Sectors with a higher percentage of women workers—those considered traditionally “women’s work”—such as health care, child care, administrative work, retail, and food services, are generally lower paid. The present crisis is underlining how critically important these jobs are and that they have long been undervalued.

3. Hours: Women are more likely to work part-time because, although roles are becoming more balanced, women are still spending more time than men on caregiving and household duties.

4. The “mommy tax”: The pay gap grows when workers experience career breaks due to caregiving responsibilities.

Time for action

Although the gender pay gap persists, we have seen increasing awareness and discussion about it. Governments, too, have acknowledged the pay gap and committed to tackling it.

Now is the time for genuine action and follow-through, not simply rhetoric. 

Steps to address pay inequity should include pay equity regulations and pay transparency measures; complementary policies and programs, like well-funded parental leave, universal public early learning and child care, and free post-secondary education; and continued struggles for gender equity, racial justice, disability justice, and reconciliation.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE