April 4, 2020 marks the day women’s median earnings in Canada finally catch up to men’s median earnings from last year. This year, Equal Pay Day takes place with the backdrop of an unprecedented test for workers, their families and the economy: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It takes 16 months for women’s median earnings to catch up to what men make in twelve. We mark Equal Pay Day to draw attention to the continued realities of wage discrimination and gender inequality in our country,” said Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress. “This year we must also recognize the gendered impact the COVID-19 crisis will have. The pandemic has exposed the lack of concrete protections for workers, especially for workers in sectors where women are often employed, and for women who work in low-wage and precarious jobs.”
The pandemic has demonstrated how important the work traditionally performed by women is to the maintenance of healthy and safe communities. Many undervalued workers have now been deemed essential, but these workers are still underpaid. Their work is often invisible and unrecognized, marked with poor working conditions, exposure to violence and harassment and other health and safety risks, limited job security and access to benefits, including paid sick leave.
“These workers are putting themselves and their families at risk so the rest of us can stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Clarke Walker. “Not only do these workers deserve higher wages, they should have predictable hours and job security, paid sick days and emergency leave, access to the equipment to do their job safely, support to meet their child care needs, and access to Employment Insurance and health benefits.”
“It’s time to usher in a new normal for our most vulnerable—and valuable—workers.”
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 13 percent of all working women in Canada are at risk of layoff, compared to nine percent of working men. Low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women, are most at risk.
Canada’s unions say that this is a time for bold, feminist action to recognize the value of women’s work and to end wage discrimination. Canada must make women’s economic justice a priority in the COVID-19 response and in the plan for recovery.
“This crisis has exposed who falls through the gaps in our system. The government has taken an important step with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, but much more needs to be done to ensure that we leave no one behind as we respond to COVID-19. Every level of government must apply a gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to how it’s responding to this crisis,” said Clarke Walker.
Join the cross-country Equal Pay Day Virtual Rally on April 4 at 1:00 p.m. by registering here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/9119266283687928587
To learn more about Equal Pay Day, go to the Ontario Equal Pay Coalition website.
Click to access the CLC COVID-19 Resource Centre.