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"Equality" stats and assumptions wrong

Times Colonist, Saturday May 27th., 2000

We write in response to Women's Equality Minister Joan Smallwood's, April 17 letter "Minister contends women still make a lot less than men".

The Victoria Men's Centre is dismayed by her statements; her statistics and assumptions are incorrect and mistaken.

The letter stated that women only made 73 cents to every dollar made by a man. Ministry of Women's Equality staff claimed this statistic came from a Statistics Canada Report published in 1999. But in its most recent report ("The persistent gap: New evidence on the Canadian gender wage gap" , December, 1999), the Income Statistics Division of Statistics Canada acknowledged that their calculation of the 73-cent figure was in error due to a number of incorrect assumptions. They have since re-calculated that the actual number was as high as 89.4 cents.

After reading the report, we came away with the strong impression that if Statistics Canada had actually compared men and women in the same job classification, working the same number of hours per year, they would have found no difference at all.

Although Statistics Canada claims to be sampling full-time, full-year wage earners, this is not the case. Their definition of a full-time, full-year wage earner is "someone who worked 30 hours a week for 6 months in a calendar year on their main job (if they worked at a second job during the same period, it is not considered in this analysis).

Since this report also states that women spend only 75% of their work experience working full-time (vs. 94% for men), it becomes difficult to imagine how this definition can be used objectively to compare wages. This is because for a married man, full-time, full-year employment is exactly that, while for married women it may mean a job, which provided only 720 hours of employment in one year.

It is also difficult to understand how a woman who worked at two or more jobs should have part-time income ignored for the purpose of Statistics Canada's analysis. For example, if a woman worked full-time for 32 hours a week for eight months and part-time at eight hours a week for 12 months, why should the part-time wages be ignored?

Further, Statistics Canada does not consider other sources of income when it calculated these figures. For example, the tips earned by a waiter in a restaurant, are not considered "wages" by Statistics Canada. Neither are commissions, interest, dividends, capital gains, or income earned while on maternity leave.

Another consideration is the fact that Statistics Canada felt that it was important to include those women who are not considered a large component of the employed population and for which there is no real male counterpart. For example widows are included in the sample of Canadian wage earners. However, only 10.5% of the 1.2 million Canadian widows actually work (there are 271,153 widowers in the Canadian population). The other 89.5% of widows get by on other sources of income including their dead husbands' pensions. It may be that if widows worked full time, it was simply to supplement an already existing income and they did not need to earn the kind of wage a married man required to support his wife and children.

A similar argument can be used for divorced women, as the case of the late Darrin White so amply demonstrated. It is not uncommon for divorced men to be ordered by the courts to pay 90% plus of their income to spousal and child support (divorced men also pay the income tax on the child support). Although divorced women may get the house, half the couple's assets and a tax-free income stream, none of this income is factored into Statistics Canada's measure of earned wages for women. In addition, divorced women with custody of children receive family bonus and child tax benefits.

With all these additional sources of income, it is not difficult to understand why some divorced women have little incentive to pursue high wages or take on long workweeks aggressively. Yet Statistics Canada (and the Ministry of Women's Equality) appears to feel that its analytical techniques fairly compare the wages earned by divorced women with those earned by divorced or married men.

These inconsistencies are evident when single male wage earners are compared with single female wage earners. Based on Statistics Canada's old method of comparing wages, the ratio of wages earned by single women vs. single men in 1997 was 92.3%. By simply comparing women and men by their hourly wage rates, one component of Statistics Canada's new method of analysis, this ratio increased to 96.4%. Statistics Canada did not present the ratio it calculated based upon all components of its new analytical method. If they had, we are willing to bet that they would have found no difference, or that women were earning more than men !

One would assume that if there truly were a "gender gap," it would be clearly evident in the wage differences between single men and single women. So why is it that the "gender gap" is not evident in the earned income of this group? The answer is that the "gender gap" is in fact a reflection of the lifestyles which men and women choose to live after they become married, not the result of some vast, systematic and conspiratorial discrimination inflicted on women by the "patriarchy."

Timothy Conlin is a member of the Victoria Men's Centre, Keith Harris is its president and Moray Benoit vice-president.


Updated on:30/06/00 09:39 PM

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