Gender wage gap study shows some improvement for immigrant women in Canada

Edana Robitaille
Published: October 8, 2023

Statistics Canada has released a new study showing the Gender Wage Gap (GWG) for all women in Canada depending on their citizenship or immigration status.

The GWG is the difference in hourly pay between Canadian-born men and women working in similar positions. The study further incorporated immigrant men and women into this wage comparison. To calculate the GWG, Statistics Canada looked at the differences in full-time and part-time earnings depending on pay distribution (lower income to high income positions) as well as among immigrant women who landed in Canada as an adult vs.as a child.

Overall, immigrant women who landed in Canada as children narrowed their gap with Canadian-born men from 14.7% in 2007 to 10.5% in 2022. Immigrant women landing as adults narrowed their gap with Canadian-born men from 27.4% in 2007 to 20.9% in 2022.

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Canadian-born women had a gap of 9.2% compared to Canadian men in 2022. This is down from 15% in 2007.

Immigrant men were found to have almost eliminated the gap between themselves and Canadian-born men.

Low vs. high pay distribution

Immigrant women in lower pay distribution positions have seen an improvement in closing the GWG while those with a higher hourly pay distribution have seen no improvement in the GWG since 2007.

For example, immigrant women with a lower pay distribution who landed as adults reduced their wage gap by 13.7 percentage points from 20.0% in 2007 to 6.3% in 2022.

However, those in the upper end of pay distribution saw almost no change between 2007 and 2022 at 20.1%. Immigrant women who landed as children and worked at the upper end of their pay distributions had a gap of 11.3%.

The GWG is also influenced by age. The study notes that there has been improvement for immigrant women who are between 25 to 29 years old who landed in Canada as adults. The difference has changed from 30.5% in 2007 to 12.0% in 2022.

Immigrant women in Canada’s labour force

Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey says that 26.1% of immigrant women who landed in Canada as adults worked in professional jobs.

Generally, immigrant women in Canada’s labour force, particularly racialized women, have traditionally been overrepresented in lower income positions such as accommodation and food services or hospitality.

Labour force survey data for August 2023 notes that female workers (6.2%) were more likely to be multiple jobholders than men (4.7%) as were immigrants admitted to Canada less than 10 years ago (6.9%). This means that recent immigrant women are the most likely to be multiple job holders.

Women less likely to be the principal applicants

Data from 2022 shows that 1,215,200 women immigrants arrived in Canada as secondary applicants in an economic immigration program. This means that they are a spouse, partner or dependent of someone who applied to immigrate to Canada as a principal applicant in an economic immigration program, such as Express Entry. A further 1,194,685 immigrant women arrived through family class sponsorship.

Statistics Canada explains that immigrant women who are not principal economic applicants often have more difficulty in finding employment because of their official language skills and the difficulty in having their skills, education or experience recognized.

Further, it notes that many immigrant women also experience gendered obstacles such as discrimination in the labour market and the gender division of labour in the family.

A Statistics Canada report from September 2022 found that 45% of immigrant women worked full-time when they were part of a couple where the youngest children were aged 1 to 5. In comparison, 64% of Canadian-born women in the same situation were employed full-time

To alleviate some of the gendered burden on women, such as childcare, the government of Canada invested over $27 billion over 5 years as part of Budget 2021, with the aim of building a national early learning and childcare system with provinces and territories.

A report by TD Economics released last June found that the labour force participation rate among women with children under the age of 6 has risen by 4 percentage points since 2020. This means roughly 111,000 additional women in Canada have joined the labour force since 2020 as childcare becomes more accessible and workplaces are more flexible with hybrid arrangements.

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